At ready to ensure we’re all masked up
A GEELONG company has quietly raced to contribute to Australia’s personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies and help combat coronavirus.
But its new machines capable of spitting out more than a million surgical masks and N95 respirators a week are barely being used.
Award-winning North Geelong surgical blanket manufacturer Care Essentials invested more than $500,000 in the machines, ordered at April’s height of the PPE shortage.
The managing director of the family-owned business, Abhay Sinha, said he was initially approached by federal and state government officials as they sought to urgently create a domestic PPE supply.
“We didn’t go for any government grant or any funding. We placed the order and, within a record time of two months, we have set up fully automatic, state-of-the art machines,” Mr Sinha said.
The equipment arrived on June 15 and was installed in a week, even though the machine supplier could only assist in their commissioning via video conferencing.
Mr Sinha said the masks, which involve multiple layers of non-woven fabric, were tested at Bell Laboratories in Melbourne and were quickly proven to meet Australian standards and were registered with the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods for use in hospitals.
Care Essentials has been growing rapidly, with coronavirus leading to a spike in sales of its patient warming machine and disposable blankets, which it exports to more than 50 countries.
“We also sell non-contact infra-red thermometers, which have been widely used as part of the COVID-19 response,” Mr Sinha said.
“We were lucky to serve the country, the community, at the time we were supposed to be doing that.”
As space was limited and its factory lease coming to an end, Mr Sinha said the company invested in a new building to house the mask-making machines and other PPE products it intends to bring online in the next couple of months.
The call on PPE has changed since April, with the national stockpile boosted and the need for masks having proved not as great as initially feared as COVID-19 case numbers were kept under control until the most recent outbreaks in Melbourne.
It’s understood other Australian manufacturers have also found themselves in a similar situation to Care Essentials. But Mr Sinha believes Care Essentials is leading the pack in having everything in place to be a domestic supplier of level 3, 2 and 1 surgical masks and P2/N95 masks.
“We are proud of one fact, that the first N95 mask made in Australia belongs to us,” he said.
GEARED UP: Care Essentials founder Abhay Sinha (front), director Ishan Sinha (right) and staff with masks at their Geelong business.