A worker wearing a protective suit counts masks at Naton Medical Group, a company which makes medical equipment in Beijing, China. Picture: AFP/WANG ZHAO
A worker wearing a protective suit counts masks at Naton Medical Group, a company which makes medical equipment in Beijing, China. Picture: AFP/WANG ZHAO

The protection of SA’s front-line doctors, nurses and community healthcare workers has received a boost with the arrival of a major order of medical protective gear.

Being in close contact with Covid-19 patients, the protection of these workers who are the country’s first line of defence in the fight against the virus, is critical. Cases have already been reported of some of these front-line workers testing positive for the disease.

The lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) has been a major challenge in a number of countries because of the surge in global demand for surgical masks, gloves, ventilators and other items.

The order, which arrived on Thursday night, includes two-million surgical masks and 216,000 KN95 respirators. Delivery of a second order consisting of a further 784,000 KN95 respirators and 550,000 surgical masks will take place on Sunday night.  

The order forms part of a government-led centralised PPE procurement strategy that serves both the public and private healthcare sectors. It is led by the department of health and the Treasury’s office of the chief procurement officer in partnership with Business for SA (B4SA), which is an alliance of volunteer resources from business bodies, organisations and companies.

B4SA on Friday said the centralisation of SA’s PPE procurement was critical as global competition for the protective gear continued to rise.

“Over 180 countries are competing for global PPE stocks so by consolidating its total procurement, SA is able to scale orders, manage price escalations and alleviate pressure on the country’s internal competition for PPE. In addition to global sourcing, SA is also working to capacitate, scale up and strengthen its local PPE supply and production capability,” it said.

To date, close to R1bn has been spent on procuring PPE for SA, funded by among others the Solidarity Fund, Motsepe Foundation, FirstRand’s Spire Fund and Naspers.

Stock already procured includes 13.5-million N95 masks, 11.25-million surgical masks for healthcare workers, 19.5-million surgical masks for patients, 900,000 sterile gloves, 20,000 face shields, 100,000 gowns, 345,000 950ml bottles of sanitisers and 200 ventilators.

The central procurement strategy is aimed at securing PPE stocks for SA for the next 6-8 weeks, and monthly thereafter.

B4SA has developed a national PPE demand and supplier dashboard, and is driving the procurement, transport, and logistics of the equipment. Suppliers and their products are qualified and vetted against approved quality guidelines. All foreign or locally sourced stocks are being delivered to provinces in accordance with the allocations determined by the department of health.

ensorl@businesslive.co.za