Apr 01, 2020 News
In early March, COVID-19 (CoronaVirus) was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Since then, there have been several measures in place, including closures of the borders and airports.
Several municipalities and businesses have also taken action to limit contact between customers and workers and even measures to prevent public gathering.
The ministry had announced that it has purchased 14 ventilators to help victims breathe easier.
The purchase of those ventilators, announced recently, had raised questions about whether there was insider knowledge in the transaction said to be worth millions of dollars.
A complaint was filed Monday to the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) by a Trinidad-based supplier, Trans-Continental Medical Products Limited, which asked for an investigation.
However, according to Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, Collette Adams, there is no insider knowledge on the matter.
Rather, she insisted, planning for the Coronavirus started since in December when the outbreak became news.
“The ministry took the initiative since then to start planning. We don’t operate willy-nilly or an ad-hoc basis here.”
She said that since then, the ministry started taking stock at what was needed, including face masks, gowns and ventilators.
The assessment was a collective effort by the ministry and the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC).
According to the PS, it was recognized early that there was a shortage of ventilators and this would be one of the biggest challenges.
She said that since February, suppliers were asked to supply ventilators, and Caribbean Medical Supplies Inc. was the one company that signaled it had.
The decision to award the contract would have come after other suppliers were asked too.
“This is not a now thing…preparations started long before.”
Adams said that the Health Ministry has no intention to defraud or give the impression of a cover-up, the intention rather is to save lives.
She offered to make the records of the transaction of the purchase of the ventilators available.
On Monday, Trans-Continental Medical Products Limited filed a complaint to the PPC asking for a probe into the procurement of the 14 portable ventilators.
This latest development would be part of the emerging narrative in a case that has dragged in the World Health Organisation (WHO) and which has sparked investigations in Guyana and Kenya.
Ventilators are used by patients who have difficulty breathing.
The Trini Company also wants the regulator to investigate the supply of the 400 HIV test kits to the Ministry of Public Health in January and make its findings known.
“As a supplier, capable of providing a range of ventilators, portable and otherwise, who have been working with the Ministry for many years, we were not made aware that the Ministry had sent out notices asking for the supply of ventilators. We must now question if these 14 ventilators were procured following proper procurement procedures.”
The company requested an investigation into the procurement procedures for those ventilators. “…specifically, we are asking for details of advertisements, and other public documents /notices which would help establish the validity of this transaction.”
A principal of Caribbean Medical, Davendra Rampersaud, is before the courts, charged after a quantity of expired HIV test kits ended up on the local market, sold to the ministry in January.
The World Health Organisation has asked local authorities to ensure that the kits are pulled out of use.
An investigation has also been launched in Kenya where the kits were supplied from.
It is believed that the kits were part of a batch donated to Kenya by the US, using donor funding.
The ministry has said it is continuing to investigate the matter.
So did the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GA-FDD).
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