NEW DELHI — Two former employees at controversial medical startup AgVa Healthcare told HuffPost India that the company manipulated the software running its low-cost ventilators to make the devices show they were pumping more oxygen into patients’ lungs than they actually were.
These startling revelations come after doctors at Mumbai’s prestigious JJ Hospital observed a variance between the actual performance of AgVa ventilators, and the performance registered on the device display. The AgVa ventilators were evaluated after JJ Hospital received 39 AgVa devices as a charitable donation. St. George Hospital, which is attached to JJ Hospital and is a dedicated Covid hospital, had received 42 AgVa ventilators.
The JJ Hospital report, written by a panel of five experienced doctors and reviewed by HuffPost India, said, “Maximum level of displayed FiO2 did not indicate actual delivered FiO2 as patient showed signs of desaturation upto 86% on multipara monitor.”
FiO2, or Fraction of Inspired Oxygen, refers to the percentage of oxygen in the air pumped into a patient’s lung — ranging from 21% (the percentage of oxygen naturally occurring in the atmosphere) to 100%, when pure oxygen is pumped into a patient’s lungs.
FiO2 is a crucial parameter for COVID patients. “When the lining of the lung gets diseased, patients need higher amounts of oxygen to ensure the body is able to extract enough oxygen,” said Dr Dileep Raman, an ICU specialist. “This happens in pneumonia, ARDS as well as in the case of COVID-19,” he explained.
The JJ Hospital report also echoes several concerns raised by a panel of experienced doctors in Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi, who evaluated the AgVa ventilators at the direction of the Modi government’s health ministry. The JJ Hospital and RML Hospital reports flagged similar shortcomings: the AgVa ventilators evaluated were prone to failure, those that worked struggled to maintain critical parameters, the ventilators...