Covid-19: Malaysians pool resources to get protective gear for health workers

Soo Wern Jun
Health workers gear up before entering Menara City One in Kuala Lumpur March 31, 2020. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, April 1 — As medical frontliners in Malaysia battle a raging Covid-19 outbreak without adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), Malaysians are rallying to pool resources to aid them.

Understanding that frontliners such as healthcare workers here and globally are facing a shortage of PPE that is hampering the fight to contain Covid-19, Malaysians have responded to these initiatives.  

Malay Mail has compiled a list of local initiatives initiated by willing and able Malaysians.  

Plastic aid

Plastics manufacturers have stepped up to donate and supply hospitals and frontliners with items as a response to the shortage of PPE, the Malaysian Plastics Manufacturers Association (MPMA) said.

The MPMA said it organised a donation drive among its members, calling on them to give what they could to hospitals facing shortages of disposables, including mineral water, face shields, aprons, gowns, shoe or ankle covers, bottles and goggles.

"MPMA members have already donated 15,000 plastic aprons for doctors, nurses and hospital staff to use and will be donating more in days to come.

“We are looking at sourcing longer plastic aprons that are better-suited for medical frontliners. In the meantime, our members are providing plastic sheeting for the frontliners to repurpose as they need,” said the association's president Datuk Lim Kok Boon.

Lim added that donated plastic sheeting can be used as temporary barriers or curtains in the hospitals, as well as disposable protective covering for medical staff.

More head covers

Angkatan Sukarelawan Asas Sejahtera (ASAS) of Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) managed to source for 1,000 pieces of new head covers or head scarves, a crucial component of a full PPE unit.

According to ASAS in its Facebook post, these head covers are usually washed in a health facility premise and are not allowed to be brought home.

"As such, each healthcare worker would need at least three pieces of head covers," ASAS said.

Medical disposables

Responding to the Occupational Safety and Health Association of Sarawak General Hospital's appeal for the donation of medical disposables for healthcare workers there, Sarawak DAP had earlier managed to raise RM100,000 worth of PPE.

Among the items sourced include coverall suit (Tyvek or equivalent), head covers, isolation gowns, boot covers, N95 respirators, and face shields or goggles.

The total cost to purchase these items ex-factory is RM107,050.00.  Freight charges to send the items to Kuching is sponsored by a DAP member from West Malaysia, while Stampin MP Chong Chieng Jen, Pandungan assemblyman Wong King Wei, Pending assemblywoman Violet Yong, and Bandar Kuching MP Kelvin Yii have each donated for the purchase of the PPE items.

Chong however said the items listed are only for the immediate and short term needs of the Sarawak General Hospital.  For long term supply, the government needs to quickly step in to ensure continuity of supply of disposables.

Face shield printing

Another initiative is from 3D Printing Malaysia Community for Covid-19.

This initiative was kicktarted by Facebook user Nurfaiz Foat who on March 21 posted his idea to mobilise Malaysians to use 3D printers to print the plastic face shield holders and simple readily-available materials to make face shields for distribution to frontliners, using a design — adapted from Josef Prusa’s original design — which he said takes 40 minutes to print for each plastic holder.

The Facebook page was later created on March 22 to enable coordination of such 3D printing efforts for face shields.

Things have moved relatively fast since the Facebook group was started, with Malaysians chipping in to show their own test runs using their 3D printers using the open source design that has been refined and revised several times.

Crowd-sourcing for contacts and partners

Separately, Biji-Biji Initiative, Me.reka, Taylors University, and Taylors University’s Me.reka Makerspace have teamed up to produce face shields at four decentralised locations including three in the Klang Valley and one in Johor, having noted the shortage of PPE such as face shields and estimated use of 40,000 face shields for one hospital alone.



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