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Canada has a massive surplus of unused ventilators

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In response to the crisis, the federal government quickly ordered just over 40,000 ventilators at a cost of C$1.1 billion, the vast majority from Canadian manufacturers who began building the life-saving machines at start from nothing.

At the time, it was touted as a success story for Canadian ingenuity and entrepreneurship. As of May 2021, over 27,000 ventilators have been delivered. But the worst pandemic scenarios never happened and most of the machines were never needed.

According to figures provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the federal government has received 27,687 ventilators out of the 40,000 it has ordered. Of these, only 2,048 have been deployed, several hundred of which have been donated to developing countries.

A total of 25,964 ventilators are in the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile, a reserve of medical and emergency equipment that provinces and territories can request when they run out.

Public Services and Procurement Canada is working with suppliers to reduce order volumes. The ministry will not say how much of the C$1.1 billion was paid to suppliers, or whether the government will save some of that money by canceling orders.

“The Government of Canada is working with Canadian suppliers to identify opportunities to reduce order volumes and support them as these contracts come to an end,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “As negotiations are currently ongoing, we cannot release any further payment-related details at this time.”

Infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness said the surplus of ventilators is a “good problem to have”, in light of the nightmare scenarios that doctors in New York and Italy faced at the start of the pandemic. .

“Under these conditions, ordering a large number of ventilators, I think, was a very understandable decision,” he said. “Having these makes me sleep a little better at night.”

But he also raised questions about how much maintenance the machines in stock will need to keep them in good working order.

A government website lists 15 vendors with whom the government has signed ventilator contracts, but the largest are with five Canadian vendors: CAE Inc., Canadian Emergency Ventilators Inc. (run by StarFish Medical), EPM Global Services Inc. , Thornhill Medical and FTI. Professional Grade Inc., a consortium of companies that came together on the initiative of Rick Jamieson, an auto parts manufacturer.

FTI Professional Grade came under scrutiny in late 2020 for the involvement of a former Liberal MP, Frank Baylis. The consortium hired Baylis Medical as a subcontractor to help build the machines, but Jamieson and Baylis insisted his political career had nothing to do with his involvement in the project.

FTI was awarded a C$237 million contract for 10,000 ventilators, which the consortium says were fully delivered by the end of 2020. PHAC says 9,056 of these ventilators are now in emergency stock . A total of 403 machines were distributed across the country, while 539 were donated to India, Nepal and Pakistan. Two units were returned to the supplier.