Photo Credit: US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman.
Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Jennifer Rand calibrates a ventilator aboard hospital ship USNS Comfort.

Israel’s efforts to quickly procure respirators from overseas have totally failed this week, according to a report in Haaretz Tuesday morning, and as a result, Israeli health officials have decided to stop the purchase attempts overseas and to focus the efforts on local solutions.

About a week ago, a German ventilator supplier announced it was canceling its commitment to meet the agreed upon schedule and supply a thousand respirators already ordered and paid for by Israel. Earlier this week, General Electric also announced that it would not be able to meet its commitment to supply a thousand ventilating machines to Israel. At the same time, a local procurement agent in China who was supposed to supply Israel with a thousand machines claimed that his inventory was shipped to a different customer.

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“It’s a world war out there,” a senior medical procurement official at Israel’s health ministry told Haaretz. “There’s crazy competition to purchase respirators, drugs, medical equipment and protective gear. It’s been there from the beginning of the crisis and it’s only increased in intensity since.”

“All the stories are true,” he added, “Israeli representatives are walking around with cash and close deals with suppliers, only to discover a short time later that the deal is off because representatives of another country made a better offer. It’s a constant race against time, because the country where you just managed to get your equipment today may not still have it for you tomorrow.”

The same official noted that the fierce competition and the accelerated rate of doing business this way often don’t allow for an orderly and detailed inspection of the quality of purchased items.

According to the Health Ministry, as of two weeks ago, Israel owns 2,864 respirators, with only half of them available. The ministry is preparing for a scenario in which, three to four weeks down the road, Israeli hospitals would be required to treat 15,000 corona patients in moderate and severe conditions, of whom 5,000 would require artificial respiration.

The problem with having only about a third of the required number of respirators in a nightmare scenario is that corona patients depend on their respirators for prolonged periods of two to three weeks.

The global race for medical equipment and the fierce and often only semi-legal competition have led to Defense Minister Naftali Bennett’s decision to assign to the clandestine intelligence agency Mossad the role of locating and procuring hard-to-get medical equipment. In the current circumstances, Mossad is able to bypass bureaucratic barriers such as the Tender Law and tender exemption procedures.

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