On Thursday’s broadcast of the show Tarča (Target) on RTV Slovenija, the discussion regarding the purchase of safety equipment continued. The show was supposed to confront the so-called whistleblower Ivan Gale and everyone else who was supposedly connected to the purchasing of the ventilators, which became something that every country desperately needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. But it did not take long for RTV Slovenija to show their true colors. The show asked an “independent” expert, dr. Rihard Knafelj, for his opinion. He said that the purchased ventilators were not suitable for current needs, but what the show did not disclose is that dr. Knafelj is someone who is closely involved in the forming of policies of the LMŠ party. They also spoke about the GenePlanet company, which has so far supplied half of the ordered ventilators, which are the reason why many patients in Slovenia are still breathing. Tarča’s journalists have made a lot of false claims about the company, which the entrepreneur Marko Bitenc categorically denied on Twitter.
“The allegations about GenePlanet that we have heard and experienced, regarding the supply of protective equipment, are not true, so we have decided to present some facts to the general public, about what really happened during the craziest times of the pandemic,” the CEO of GenePlanet Marko Bitenc wrote on Twitter and then shared both information and documents related to the matter.
Bitenc denied the claims that he was able to get the deal for the procurement of inappropriate equipment because of political connections. “In fact, the equipment was in compliance with the contractual requirements of the Agency for Commodity Reserves (Zavod za blagovne reserve),” said Bitenc, revealing the Agency’s incompetence and their impossible requirements, about which the company had warned them throughout the process.
According to Bitenc, an impression was created, which made it seem as if the Agency “really does not know what the protective equipment is all about.” He backed up his argument with a message that his company had sent to the people in charge. Bitenc also pointed out that personal protective equipment cannot fall within the legal framework of medical equipment and, at the same time, have the standard of personal protective equipment, as the Agency demanded after the company signed the contract for the procurement of protective equipment.
According to Bitenc, the GenePlanet company was able to respond to all of the expert commission’s accusations in less than half an hour. After that, communication with them had practically stopped.
However, since RTV Slovenija did not manage to slander the company in the matter of its procurement of protective equipment, they decided to try it in the matter of ordering the R30 ventilators. In doing so, they used the help of an “independent” expert, one of the three members of an informal panel of experts selected to evaluate the offers for the procurement of protective equipment, Rihard Knafelj, M.D.
He was an advisor to the LMŠ party in its election campaign, for the field of healthcare. According to the posts on his social media profiles, it is clear that this is a man who is openly hostile towards the SDS party and Janez Janša. In addition to this, Knafelj shared a post that is in contradiction with the Hippocratic Oath, on his Twitter profile – a picture which shows a doctor who is refusing to treat a Catholic because God is supposed to help him anyway. Can you imagine having to be operated by a doctor like this, who also happens to know you are a conservative?
On the show Tarča, Knafelj said that the ordered Siriusmed R30 ventilators, which were supplied by the GenePlanet company, are not suitable for the ventilation of patients who require controlled ventilation because of the infection with the novel coronavirus. This is a very unusual claim, given that the same type of ventilators was ordered to be used in the fight against COVID-19 in the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, USA, and elsewhere, and the ventilators have proven to be perfectly suitable. Even more – they have saved lives! So, the ventilators are good enough for some of the best healthcare systems in the world, but not for the Slovenian one?
British Prime Minister “Boris Johnson, for example, has even sent a letter to the manufacturer, Siriusmed, on behalf of the British Government, thanking the company for their help in the fight against the pandemic. Even the installation reports that were signed by those who have received the ventilators show that they are professionally sound and appropriate,” Bitenc said for Dnevnik.
While the Agency for Commodity Reserves decided for the Siriusmed R30 ventilators, the University Medical Centre of Ljubljana rejected them, based on the opinion of the “expert” commission, and decided for another product. Of course, the question remains – why? Why is it that, according to the “expert” commission, a ventilator that is good enough for one of economically most powerful countries, is not good enough for Slovenia?
One can easily get the impression that the suppliers are disappointed because they were counting on big earnings, but in the end, they were left out of the deal or got a much smaller share of the deal than what they envisaged.
It should also be noted that when the GenePlanet company found out about the ventilator’s rating on March 24th, 2020, Bitenc himself offered to cancel the contract for all 220 ventilators. The controversial thing which made the “expert” commission believe that the ventilators are unsuitable, is the lack of active humidifiers with double heated tubes, which are actually added equipment. As Bitenc explained in his message to those responsible for the procurement of ventilators, the ventilators themselves are “perfectly usable and of good quality.”
Bitenc also emphasized that the R30 ventilator has a built-in humidifier, which is “appropriate for use (not just conditionally appropriate for use!) and meets all the professional criteria for quality care for citizens. If you want extra humidifiers that are heated, that is your decision. I do not oppose to this idea; I welcome it.”
One of the most vile parts of the show is certainly the piece that was made by the RTV Slovenija journalist Nataša Markovič, in which she claimed that Bitenc assured her on camera that he would send her the documents she had asked for, before the show, but failed to do so. “This statement is NOT true,” Bitenc replied to a question on Twitter, saying that on April 30th, at 10:15, Markovič sent him a message, saying that “she did not need any additional documentation.”
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the national media outlet will use anything they possibly can for an attack on Janša’s Government. If it cannot be used directly, they will find a way to twist it. It is safe to say that if the Agency decided to pass on the deal for the procurement of 220 ventilators, the show Tarča would instead report on how many unnecessary deaths of our fellow citizens were caused because the Government did not provide the necessary health and safety equipment.