At ready to en­sure we’re all masked up

Geelong Advertiser - - NEWS - DAVE CAIRNS

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.

Pic­ture: GLENN FER­GU­SON

GEARED UP: Care Es­sen­tials founder Ab­hay Sinha (front), di­rec­tor Ishan Sinha (right) and staff with masks at their Geelong busi­ness.

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