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Sinn Féin TD calls on Oireachtas Committee to investigate HSE procurement of ventilators

The HSE has been criticised in an audit report about its procurement of the ventilators at the beginning of Covid-19.

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SINN FÉIN TD David Cullinane called for the Joint Committee on Health to investigate and examine issues surrounding the HSE’s procurement of ventilators during the pandemic. 

The HSE has been criticised in an unpublished internal audit report about its procurement of millions of euro worth of ventilators at the beginning of the pandemic. 

The report, which was released to the Irish Examiner and RTÉ’s Morning Ireland under Freedom of Information, found that there was unsatisfactory governance and risk management in the procurement of the ventilators.

It found €81 million in pre-payments was made to 10 suppliers operating from China who were previously unknown to the HSE. 

The Irish Examiner reports that of the 2,194 ventilators ordered, just 465 (costing €10.1 million) were delivered to the HSE. 

Of the remaining €71 million, refunds for cancelled orders of €29.3 million were received, while €9.1 million was transferred to an order for PPE. 

The HSE is now owed €35.2 million in refunds from four of the 10 suppliers. 

When the initial delivery arrived from China, the ventilators did not pass tests carried out by the HSE, RTÉ reports. 

The broadcaster also reports that the HSE said it accepted the recommendations from the report and said it is important to note that it was operating in a volatile market and under considerable pressure to secure equipment. 

Reacting to the report, David Cullinane, Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on health, said: “It is easy to say that mistakes were made because there was an emergency, but we need to understand the reasons why the HSE had to scramble on so many fronts in the first place.

“We did not have enough ICU beds, enough ventilators, enough staff or enough single isolation rooms to protect staff and non-Covid patients.” 

He claimed that HSE was “chaotic” before Covid and was “overwhelmed very quickly”. 

“The ventilators are just part of it but cannot be brushed under the carpet either,” Cullinane said.

“€35 million is a significant sum of public money, and the retrieval of this along with other issues relating to our pandemic unpreparedness must be examined by the Oireachtas Health Committee,” he said. 

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“We must ensure accountability and transparency as part of learning from past mistakes.” 

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has welcomed the findings of the audit, but added the reality is that the HSE had to procure ventilators from all over the world in a “war-like situation”. 

“I welcome the audit, it’s very important the HSE is doing these audits,” Donnelly said. 

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, the Minister said that when looking back at the procurement last year, it was important to remember “the context”. 

He said the HSE was being “screamed at by the opposition, by government, by the media, by everyone in the country to get these ventilators in at all costs”. 

Donnelly said the main concern was that the HSE wouldn’t run out of ventilators. 

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