The U.S. government paid a Texas firm almost $70 million in a no-bid contract for ventilators that medical workers said were inadequate to treat COVID-19 patients, The Washington Post reports.
One worker, who was told to use the ventilator by AutoMedx if there was a coronavirus surge called it “awful and under-powered.” Another said it would “kill [COVID-19 patients] just as fast as no ventilator at all.”
AutoMedx was one of the companies that received no bid contracts, though there is no indication why it was included on the list. It had emerged from bankruptcy only six months earlier, and provided 11,200 ventilators at an average cost of $6,274. Those are now in the nation’s strategic stockpile.
Though other companies were awarded the no-bid contracts, the minimum specs listed in the government contract were almost identical to those of AutoMedx’s SAVe II model. Even the formatting of the specs were the same.
AutoMedx co-founder and current shareholder Adrian Urias was an adviser to the Trump administration’s ventilator purchases, the company’s current current chief medical officer, Geoffrey Ling, once worked for Adm. Brett Giroir, who now serves as assistant secretary of health and human services and is in charge of coronavirus testing for the Trump administration. Both the company and Giroir told the Post AutoMedx did not receive special treatment.
When the early version of the SAVe was developed Giroir pushed it for use in pandemics, but its use appears to be better suited to transporting wounded soldiers, medical experts told the Post.
Following complaints, the company followed up with another model, but experts still called it inadequate to treat COVID patients.
“AutoMedx’s ventilators are developed to provide lifesaving mechanical ventilation when there is a lack of full-featured ventilators or a shortage of the highly trained staff necessary to operate them,” CEO James Evans said in a statement.