Ventilators sent to Britain from China could kill or cause ‘significant patient harm,’ doctors warn
LONDON — British doctors have warned that 250 ventilators that arrived in the United Kingdom from China to help treat people infected with the coronavirus may actually kill or cause “significant patient harm,” according to a letter reviewed by NBC News.
The document, dated April 13, highlights a string of concerns and notes that the Shangrila 510 model ventilators cannot be cleaned thoroughly and have a “variable and unreliable” oxygen supply. The letter, which was addressed to a senior National Health Service official, also states that the machinery is of “basic” quality and is not suitable for the current crisis.
“We believe that if used, significant patient harm, including death, is likely,” the doctors, who represent a group of health-care workers operating in and around the city of Birmingham, wrote. “We look forward to the withdrawal and replacement of these ventilators with devices better able to provide intensive care ventilation for our patients.”
As the crisis on British soil accelerated and the infection and death rates surged, hospitals struggled to treat patients due to a severe shortage of beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment for staff, with at least one hospital running out of oxygen. Officials appealed to car manufacturers to create breathing devices, while other countries such as Turkey and China flew aid into a country that was scrambling to contain the disease.
In early April, the British government confirmed it had purchased 300 ventilators from China, with senior minister Michael Gove thanking the Chinese government for its support during the crisis.
The coronavirus has so far claimed at least 26,000 lives in the United Kingdom, making it the second-worst-hit country in Europe. Italy is currently the most badly affected, with at least 27,967 recorded deaths.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized with the infection himself, has faced widespread criticism in recent months, including accusations that the country was not adequately prepared for the outbreak. A recent BBC investigation uncovered that the government failed to include crucial items of personal protective equipment, such as gowns, swabs, body bags and visors, in its pandemic stockpile.