The cost of producing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as face masks, has soared by up to eight times its normal price, putting vital medical safety supplies at risk.
Medical product distributor Pacific Healthcare CEO John Blair says face masks classified as level 2, which act as a barrier to blood and bacteria, would usually cost suppliers 82 cents before the COVID-19 pandemic, but those costs have skyrocketed to above $6.
According to a statement released by Infection control goods manufacturer GAMA Healthcare CEO Suzie Hammouche, the problem is the Chinese government has reassigned many of the raw materials used to make infection control products in Australia.
“This [reassignment of raw materials], coupled with increased demand, has produced a shortage of raw materials on a global scale and, consequently, a significant increase in costs,” Ms Hammouche says.
“Where a customer would normally order 800 units a month, they now want 2000 or more.”
GAMA and Pacific Healthcare both produce antibacterial wipes, hand sanitiser and hospital disinfectant as part of its PPE range.
Mr Blair says the Chinese government has been taken over by the state.
“The bottom line is, we just have to pay it. If you want it, you have got to just suck it up,” Mr Blair said.
The price hike comes as Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt made prohibited price gouging in Australia, in line with the Biosecurity Act 2015 (Cth), in response to public concern that protective gear and disinfectants are not reaching those with the greatest need.
The Minister’s office and the WA Department of Health did not answer questions about what impacts huge price increases would have on the availability of PPE in state hospitals.