House investigates HHS ventilator deal

A House subcommittee is investigating a $70 million deal between the federal government and two medical device companies to supply the U.S. with ventilators that ended up being inadequate to treat COVID-19 patients, The Washington Post reports. 

HHS and the Defense Logistics Agency purchased 11,200 ventilators, called the AutoMedx SAVe II+, from AutoMedx and distributor Combat Medical Systems last spring, according to the Post. An investigation by the Post found the ventilators were inadequate for treating most COVID-19 patients, and they've sat unused in warehouses. 

Adrian Urias, co-founder of AutoMedx and current shareholder, advised the Trump administration's coronavirus task force on ventilator purchases, according to the Post. The House has requested documents and communications from AutoMedx and Combat Medical related to the deal and a description of the negotiations with the government. 

Physicians told the Post the SAVe II ventilator is "awful and underpowered." A military physician said an underpowered ventilator  could "kill [COVID-19 patients] just as fast as no ventilator at all."

Instead of canceling the deal when learning the ventilators were insufficient, HHS asked Combat Medical Systems to make a new ventilator with improved features, according to the Post. The company created the SAVe II+, which has improved capabilities, but emergency room physicians told the Post it is still inadequate for treating COVID-19 patients. 

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