The Edge: More PPE on the way to hospitals

This article first appeared in The Edge Financial Daily, on April 16, 2020.

Personal protective equipment is in heavy demand as frontline medical workers rely on it when treating Covid-19 patients. Photo by Sam Fong

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KUALA LUMPUR: The Edge Covid-19 Equipment Fund will be delivering another batch of personal protective equipment (PPE) to public hospitals in the country over the next two weeks.

The Edge Media Group publisher and group chief executive officer Datuk Ho Kay Tat said this in response to the appeal for help yesterday by Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, who said hospitals had enough PPE to last only another two weeks while waiting for new stock that the ministry had ordered to arrive.

The heavy usage is because PPE — hair and shoe covers, face masks, gloves, gowns and protection suits — is used only once. Assuming 15,000 healthcare workers are on frontline duty in government hospitals and clinics, that means 15,000 sets of PPE are used and disposed of each day.

Ho said the next batch of PPE to be sent out consists of 500,000 face masks, 20,000 protection suits, 20,000 face shields, 2,000 goggles and 500,000 medical gloves.

The fund from March 30 to April 10 sent out a large number of PPE — 460,000 face masks, 15,000 protection suits and 1,000 face shields — to over 30 hospitals and more than 60 district clinics. The white head-to-feet protection suits were the most expensive, ranging from RM80 to RM100 per piece, up from below RM60 before the Covid-19 outbreak. PPE is mostly sourced from China, and there are fears Beijing may curtail exports to ensure there is enough supply for local needs although the pandemic situation there has eased.

The Edge Covid-19 Equipment Fund has to date raised RM14 million from companies and individuals.

Ho said the fund had also ordered breathing aids like ventilators and oxygen concentrators for hospitals. On Tuesday, Noor Hisham said hospitals were not short of ventilators because the number of patients in intensive care units was not large at the moment.

“It looks like PPE is the priority at the moment and we will focus on getting more of them,” said Ho.