PETALING JAYA: The Covid-19 outbreak has swept across the country at an alarming rate, catching many unawareness and crippling the economy. At the time of writing, the outbreak has resulted in 37 deaths and 2,626 confirmed cases with three areas in total lockdown.
In the midst of this crisis, hundreds of thousands of frontliners have had to risk their lives every single day, in particular healthcare workers attending to the sick and dying, and enforcement personnel working round the clock to keep the peace and enforce the Movement Control Order.
Scores of others too, also considered frontliners, have had to continue working in these dangerous times particularly those in public transportation and making home deliveries among other essential services.
A shortage in face masks was inevitable. But when “Perry” Gan Pere Hei and his teammates realised the true gravity of the situation, they decided they had to do something about it. So they put their heads together and devised a plan to produce face shields for key frontliners.
In an email interview with FMT, Perry explained how this initiative took form.
“My teammate Sei Miin learnt that a doctor in Muar Hospital was seeking help through social media to make face shields. Apparently there was an acute shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE),” he said, adding that medical staff had resorted to making their own.
A video that went viral showing medical staff in Kelantan donning garbage bags when attending to patients with Covid-19 affected Perry and his friends in a profound way.
“This came as a shock to us because not only do these frontliners have to work round the clock in extremely hazardous environments, but now they have to worry about a shortage of PPEs too,” said Perry, who is from Melaka.
Perry explains that Sei Miin came up with the idea of making the face shields for medical staff in Melaka and Muar. Soon seven of their friends expressed an interest in the idea and from that point, the project quickly took off.
“There are plenty of tutorials online that teach you how to make them. We also bought one from the pharmacy to further study it. After improvising, we came up with a face shield around the price range of RM1.10.
“In the marketplace, face shields sold are 15 times that,” Perry says.
The challenge was to ensure a clean and sanitised workstation for the production of the face shields, and a plan to immediately dispatch the finished products to hospitals and clinics.
It was a team effort from start to finish.
Sei Miin deals with representatives from hospitals and clinics that handle the screening and treatment of Covid-19 patients. She also arranges for the face shields to be picked up at the end of the day.
Perry explained that his role is to disseminate information about the production of face shields to friends, procure the materials needed and obtain sponsorships and donations.
“The other five teammates take care of dispatches, general errands, quality control, SOPs and sanitisation issues at our respective work stations,” said Perry.
In total, Perry and his team make around 500 face shields a day. It is an arduous work which takes anything from four to eight hours. Luckily for them, friends and family help out either with donations or by making the face shields as well.
Since March 24, the team has produced a whopping 3,000 face shields.
All have been delivered to Melaka General Hospital, Muar General Hospital, Jasin Hospital, Alor Gajah Hospital, Tengkera Health Clinic and Melimau Health Clinic.
Perry also highlighted the need to allocate stock to smaller hospitals and clinics that are often overlooked in the rush to fulfil urgent demands.
“When help and relief come along, the bulk of it always ends up in larger hospitals, leaving little to nothing left to be distributed to smaller hospitals. Our approach is to make sure these places are taken care of too.”
The team hopes to keep the momentum going to supply as many face shields as possible to the frontliners who need it most.
“We are also planning to provide takeaways to feed our frontliners (strictly for night shift staff) and this will commence as soon as possible. We are in the process of looking for funding for it,” said Perry.
FMT wishes Perry and his team all the best in their efforts to lend a much needed helping hand during these trying times.