Canada has a huge surplus of unused fans

In response to the crisis, the federal government quickly ordered just over 40,000 fans at a cost of C $ 1.1 billion, the vast majority from Canadian manufacturers who began building the life-saving machines from scratch.

At the time, it was described as a success story for Canadian ingenuity and entrepreneurship. By May 2021, more than 27,000 fans had been delivered. But the worst pandemic scenarios never happened, and most machines were never needed.

According to figures provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the federal government has received 27,687 ventilators out of the 40,000 it ordered. Of these, only 2048 have been deployed, including several hundred that have been donated to developing countries.

A total of 25,964 respirators are in the national emergency stockpile, a reserve of medical equipment and emergency equipment that provinces and territories can request when they run out.

Public Services and Procurement Canada works with suppliers to reduce the ordered volumes. The department will not say how much of the C $ 1.1 billion has been paid to suppliers, or whether the government will save some of the money by canceling orders.

“The Government of Canada is working with Canadian suppliers to identify opportunities to reduce the volumes ordered and support them when these contracts are terminated,” a spokesman said in a statement. “As negotiations are currently underway, we are unable to disclose further details regarding payment at this time.”

Infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness said that the excess of fans is a “nice problem to have”, in light of the nightmare scenarios doctors in New York and Italy faced early in the pandemic.

“Under these conditions, I think ordering a large number of fans was a very understandable decision,” he said. “Having them makes me sleep a little better at night.”

But he also asked how much maintenance the machines in the warehouse would require to keep them in good condition.

A government website lists 15 suppliers with whom the government has signed ventilator contracts, but the largest are with five Canadian suppliers: CAE Inc., Canadian Emergency Ventilators Inc. (led by StarFish Medical), EPM Global Services Inc., Thornhill Medical and FTI Professional Grade Inc., a consortium of companies that came together on the initiative of Rick Jamieson, a car parts manufacturer.

The FTI Professional Grade was surveyed in late 2020 for the involvement of a former Liberal MP, Frank Baylis. The consortium hired Baylis Medical as a subcontractor to help produce the machines, but Jamieson and Baylis insisted that his political career had nothing to do with his participation in the project.

FTI was awarded a contract of 237 million C $ for 10,000 fans, which the consortium says was completed by the end of 2020. PHAC says that 9,056 of these fans are now in emergency storage. A total of 403 machines are distributed across the country, while 539 have been donated to India, Nepal and Pakistan. Two units were returned to the supplier.