At the start of the pandemic the HSE placed orders for 3,500 ventilators, at an agreed cost of €129 million, ten times more than it had capacity to use.
A number of these orders were subsequently cancelled.
€22 million is still outstanding on refunds and it is believed that €8 million of this will not be refunded.
Bernard Gloster, the recently appointed HSE chief executive, and Stephen Mulvaney, its chief financial officer, were questioned about the purchases during a meeting of the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee (Pac) Thursday 11 May 2023.
The committee was told approximately 100 ventilators delivered from China did not meet the required standards and have been in storage at a cost €75,000 over the last three years.
Comptroller & Auditor General, Seamus McCarthy said he previously drew attention to write-offs on personal protective equipment (PPE) stocks and hand gels, totalling more than €483 million, due to unsuitability, obsolescence or price fluctuations.
In January it was revealed former CMO Tony Holohan first introduced a festival management company to the HSE for the provision of Covid-19 ventilators, according documents released earlier this year to the Irish Examiner.
Holohan was approached by Robert Quirke, the chief executive of Roqu Media International, on March 16, 2020 — less than a fortnight before Ireland entered lockdown.
Holohan told the Irish Examiner that he did not know Quirke or his business when he referred him to the Department of Health who suggested that the HSE’s head of procurement Sean Bresnan should “follow up on this offer”, according to documents that were released after a 20-month battle following a ruling by the Information Commissioner.
Within a fortnight, the HSE paid more than €14m for 300 ventilators from China.
Only 72 machines were ever delivered and they failed quality control and couldn’t be used.
Following a refund by Roqu of €3.8m to the HSE, the final bill for the unusable ventilators was €10.3m according to the report by Cianan Brennan.