Shepparton News

Donation helps all to mask up in pandemic

- By Rosa Ritchie

Shepparton FoodShare will this week begin distributi­ng masks, gloves, hand sanitiser and disinfecta­nt wipes to people in the community struggling to pay for the essentials, thanks to a generous donation of PPE from Mooroopna-based Indigenous Medical Supplies (IMS).

Led by IMS managing director and Dunghutti man Mervyn Fernando, IMS is a 100 per cent Indigenous-owned and operated business aiming to close the gap in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health.

As soon as the Shepparton outbreak took off, Mr Fernando was on the phone to wholesaler­s and manufactur­ers to ask how they could help. The result is a donation of 70,000 pairs of nitrile exam gloves, more than 1000 bottles of liquid disinfecta­nt, 1488 bottles of hand wash, 10,000 surgical masks and more than 1000 disinfecta­nt wipes heading directly to vulnerable families and community organisati­ons.

“Without hesitation, three of our key major partners, Mun Global, Ecolab and Softmed, stepped up to lend a hand,” Mr Fernando said.

IMS has also donated PPE to the Rumbalara Aboriginal Cooperativ­e medical service, which is busy vaccinatin­g the 6000-strong Aboriginal population in Greater Shepparton.

IMS customer service manager and Gunaikurna­i woman Kim Watkins assists a client base of mostly medical centres, hospitals and Aboriginal community-controlled health organisati­ons.

She said demand for IMS products spiked when COVID-19 hit Australia. As a result, for the past 18 months the Mooroopna-based business has been flat out supplying essential protective equipment to communitie­s across the country.

“We have a national distributi­on so we’re sending a lot of this stuff that you see here — personal protective equipment and other infection control products — directly into these Aboriginal communitie­s,” Mr Fernando said.

“Generally, the purchase occurs post a lockdown, so we knew immediatel­y when the local COVID crisis started, that the local community was going to need this stuff.”

Shepparton FoodShare operations co-ordinator Grace Grieve said PPE was expensive and households faced with a choice between buying PPE or putting food on the table wouldn’t be able to fork out for face masks.

“We’ve been very fortunate that we were able to receive this amazing donation — I’m grateful for so many reasons,” Ms Grieve said.

“We need to get it out there in the community so the community is safe; the way to keep our neighbours safe is to practise safe hygiene.”

Ms Grieve said she regularly saw people reusing disposable masks for days, if not weeks, because they couldn’t afford a fresh packet.

“Having this amazing stock enables us to make sure it gets out to the community,” she said.

Committed to ensuring the PPE reached the people who needed it the most, Ms Grieve said FoodShare volunteers were about to begin assembling packs of masks, sanitiser and wipes to include in food packages.

 ?? Picture: Rodney Braithwait­e ?? Providing protection: Shepparton FoodShare’s Grace Grieve, with Mervyn Fernando and Kim Watkins of Indigenous Medical Supplies, is ready to distribute vital supplies.
Picture: Rodney Braithwait­e Providing protection: Shepparton FoodShare’s Grace Grieve, with Mervyn Fernando and Kim Watkins of Indigenous Medical Supplies, is ready to distribute vital supplies.

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