U.S. Never Used Ventilators From Russia Now Suspected In Deadly Fires

Ventilators sent to the United States by Russia to help treat COVID-19 patients are the same model that reportedly caused two deadly fires in Russian hospitals, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said on May 12.

The devices were never deployed to U.S. hospitals and are being returned to the federal government “out of an abundance of caution,“ FEMA spokeswoman Janet Montesi said in a statement.

The machines were delivered to New York and New Jersey, the U.S. states hardest hit by the coronavirus, but “the flattening curve meant these ventilators were not needed,” Montesi said.

The statement comes after Russia’s health-care regulator, Roszdravnadzor, started checking the devices, which are widely used for treating serious COVID-19 cases.

“Roszdravnadzor is checking the quality and safety of the ventilation units installed in the hospitals where the fires took place,” the regulator said in a May 12 statement that came just hours after a fire in St. Petersburg killed five COVID-19 patients.

St. Petersburg authorities said the fire was most likely caused by a malfunction in a ventilator device that was operating in St. George Hospital early on May 12.

Three days earlier, a fire in a hospital in Moscow killed a female patient. It is also suspected of being sparked by a similar device.

The ventilators that arrived in the United States were on a Russian plane carrying medical supplies to help fight the coronavirus outbreak. U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said the supplies had been purchased but did not say how much the United States paid.

Ortagus described the purchase as a “follow-up” to a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 30 as New York was experiencing a severe outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Trump said Putin offered the equipment and that he considered it a “very nice gesture.”

The arrival of the shipment, which Moscow described as “aid,” immediately raised questions over the motives behind the move and whether Putin would use it as a public relations coup.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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