On March 19, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin assured journalists that Russia has no shortage of ventilators — the breathing machines needed to prevent many of the worst COVID-19 cases from becoming fatal. On March 23, however, the federal government allocated another 7.5 billion rubles ($92.9 million) to buy more ventilators. According to the news website Open Media, state procurement records show that regional health officials are worried about ventilator shortages, and the rush to buy more is driving up the prices on this equipment.
For example, in Russia’s Sverdlovsk region, where officials have reported nine coronavirus infections, the lieutenant governor says his office is using the government’s high-alert status to bypass standard procurement procedures, in order to buy two ventilators for more than 15 million rubles ($186,000) and possibly spend another 39 million rubles ($483,600) to acquire 16 more ventilators.
According to procurement orders now being placed by regional officials across Russia, the minimum cost of ventilators across the country has jumped between 1.5-2 times since last year, says Open Media.
A source at the medical-equipment manufacturer “Tehnomed” told Open Media that prices have been raised artificially, in order to ensure that ventilators remain in stock for hospitals. Despite the higher prices, however, demand for these devices has increased nearly tenfold, says the source. Online, ventilators are selling to private clients for between tens of thousands of rubles and even several million rubles, depending on the specific type of ventilator. Doctors warn, however, that these machines are useless without the highly trained staff needed to operate them.