UNIVERSITY Teaching Hospital (UTH) head of anesthesiology and critical care Dr Christopher Chanda has admitted that technicians used some new ICU Ventilators for about two or three months without being trained on how to operate them.

Meanwhile, Office of the Auditor General Director Ministerial Audits Patrick Simusokwe says the procurement of new oxygen sensors one month after the machines proved faulty reflected as wasteful expenditure by government.

The latest Auditor General’s report indicated that 25 VG ICU Ventilators delivered to the University Teaching Hospitals had an error message of “Oxygen Sensor Failure”, an indication of a faulty or expired oxygen sensor.

Speaking when the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee (PAC) visited UTH to check equipment procured during the covid era, Wednesday, Dr Chanda said there was a lot of pandemic-induced pressure and technicians had no choice to but start using the ventilators without getting trained.

“I understand that they were procured centrally and as the department of anesthesia, we had no role in supplying the specifications of the machines. Of course, the ventilators came and we are the end users on patients and we started using them. So I would not actually confirm that we submitted any specifications for these particular ventilators. When you do checks on the machine, it is one of the sensors that you calibrate. Calibrating of the censor requires that end users are trained and the training can either be physical and sometimes we do it here,” Dr Chanda said.

“I think the training was not done because of the urgency of the covid. I was corrected that they did not do the initial training for that. Biomed have the responsibility to ensure that the sensors are optimal even before we use the ventilators. Biomed have the responsibility to ensure that the gadget that we are going to use passes the software test and physical things. What I remember is that the machines came in here and there was no training, therefore, there was no installation. Normally, installation is by the manufacturer, they do technical training to the biomed. I think unfortunately for this one, I think that never happened. I think the training came two or three months after the machines were in use.”

Chavuma UPND member of Parliament Victor Lumayi then said the lack of training was a lapse on the part of the Hospital, stating that covid patients actually died due to lack of knowledge on how to operate the machines by health personnel.

And in response, UTH biomedical technologist Kapuka Katongo said the procurement of ICU Ventilators was centrally done at the Ministry of Health without the input from their input on specifications.

“As Biomed from the Ministry of Health, they gave specifications of the machines. For us here, we just give neutral specifications that would meet a normal vent that we would want. The machines were received and they worked for about a month then the sensors expired after that month. They worked for a month, the censors expired and we requested through Ministry to have sensors again. So the sensors were replaced and the machines are all working,” said Katongo.

Meanwhile, Office of the Auditor General Director Ministerial Audits Patrick Simusokwe said the procurement of new oxygen sensors one month after the machines proved faulty reflects as wasteful expenditure by government.

“The submission is that the machines were actually working but the challenge was that there was no training. That was the submission before the Committee. When we came at the time of inspection in the biomedical department, we were guided and there is a report which shows that of the 25 censors, two were found in the workshop because they were faulty. Some ventilators were received on 29th October, 2020. After we went for inspections on 7th May, 2021, we were told by the biomedical department that there was still no training conducted,” Simusokwe said.

“For us, the concern is that the government cannot procure a machine and the fact that it only worked for one month. And the time we came, the machine sensors showed failure and that is why we raised the query. The other challenge that you need to know is what is the additional cost? The machine works for one month and they request for oxygen censors, so what is the additional cost to government? And to us, that becomes wasteful expenditure.”

Nominated member of parliament Likando Mufalali and his counterpart Imanga Wamunyima expressed dissatisfaction over the responses given by UTH.

In response to this, Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary for Administration George Magwende advised his officers to be open minded and not hide the truth on the matter.

“The advice is to have an open mind. We are not here to say you stole or you did this. You need to answer accordingly so that the Committee is advised clearly. We could not have dwelled much on this if you could have been sincere from the word go. I think what the MPs want to know is the relationship between the time when the machines were delivered and when you received the training. I think it is very clear. Chair, we will appear before the Committee with relevant officers,” said Dr Magwende.

In conclusion, PAC chairperson Warren Mwambazi directed the Ministry of Health to adequately prepare as they appear before the committee today, Thursday, March 10, 2022 in order to respond to queries cited in the latest Auditor General’s covid report.