The Punjab & Haryana HC Asks the Centre to Reconsider the Ban on Used Ventilators

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The Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked the Centre whether it can permit the import of refurbished ventilators, suggesting a review of the ban on import of these ventilators.

Facts of the Case 

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the Punjab and Haryana High Court asked the Centre to examine whether the use of imported refurbished ventilators can be allowed, suggesting a review of the ban on import of used ventilators.

Arguments

Several arguments were made against the use of second-hand ventilators. At the previous hearing, the bench was informed that the import of used critical care equipment has been prohibited because:-

  • Ensuring quality control: Used critical care equipment can be sold as refurbished without being judged in terms of quality, security, safety for patients and performance. There could also be issues regarding repair, upkeep, availability of spare parts and compatibility with older versions of equipment.
  • A major risk to patients: Considering that critical care equipment is mainly used in Intensive Care Units (ICUs), there is a reasonable risk that the equipment could endanger the lives of patients in critical conditions who require intensive care. The used critical care equipment could also act as a source of hospital-acquired infection, which may come along with the equipment. Furthermore, wear and tear or in-orderly functioning of such equipment could be life-threatening to patients in the ICUs.
  • It discourages local manufacturing and use of locally manufactured equipment: we may note it that medical electronics are one of the nine sub-sector working groups under the electronic system
  • The sector in ‘Make in India’: Importing critical care equipment can dis-incentivize local manufacturers of critical care equipment and can also cause competition with the usage of domestic used critical care equipment in the health industry.
  • Generation of E-waste at a faster pace: Since the working life of second hand/used equipment will be lesser than new equipment, the used equipment will reach end-of-life at a swifter pace contributing to the electrical waste (e-waste) generation in the country. Ensuring environmentally sound management of e-waste is already a major concern which could get exacerbated if imports of used critical care equipment are allowed.

Court‘s Observations

On Tuesday, the bench noted the report that ventilators of reputed brands found to be in working condition may be put to use subject to clarification of disinfection, effectiveness and assured maintenance by the refurbishing company.

The bench required a copy of the report be supplied to the ASG for the UOI to enable him to seek instructions, particularly, keeping in view the matter involves the question of saving lives of critical patients.

The bench also called for details which authority can certify regarding disinfection and effectiveness. Meanwhile, the bench also asked the refurbishing company to submit a certificate of disinfection, their effectiveness and assured maintenance as regards the 32 ventilators imported by the petitioner-firm, to the Director, Department of Medical Education and Research, Government of Punjab.

Decision

Justices Rajan Gupta and Karamjit Singh opined that in case they put the aforesaid ventilators to use, it may be of help to some serious patients. In light of the same, the division bench had sought the independent opinion of an expert to find out whether the ventilators imported from another country would be hazardous for the hospitals in India.

Therefore, the High Court directed New Delhi to reconsider the ban, with the increase in numbers COVID-19 case throughout the country.


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