Looming face mask crisis at state hospitals

Looming face mask crisis at state hospitals

Ramathibodi Hospital runs the risk of facing a crisis in less than a week if it cannot acquire more face mask to serve the burgeoning demand fuelled by fears over potential Covid-19 infections.

Its doctors, nurses and employees are among medical personnel from 13 hospitals under the Consortium of Thai Medical Schools, who had earlier made a passionate plea to the Internal Trade Department for help over a looming shortage of masks.

"We only have enough to last less than a week," hospital director Surasak Leelaudomlipi said yesterday, admitting that demand for the masks has soared from just over 30,000 to more than 40,000 pieces a week.

This impending crisis is forcing the hospital to limit the use of masks among patients and ask some of its staff members, like those working in the kitchen, to use washable masks instead, he said.

Dr Surasak added that he is aware Thailand is facing some problems in importing materials used for masks from virus-hit countries, because they need the components more. "There's also the problem of distributing masks to those in need," he said.

The Internal Trade Department has been tasked with allocating 600,000 of 1.3 million masks produced daily by 11 manufacturers to Public Health and Commerce ministries. The rest are sold to the public.

The department, however, is struggling to solve the shortage by ensuring there are enough masks for state-run hospitals and for sale to the public.

Yesterday, it took less than half an hour for officials at City Hall to sell all 600 packs of four to people who had been queuing for hours to buy them at 10 baht a pack.

Face masks are being sold at substantially inflated prices, including at some Blue Flag outlets, which are part of a state scheme to provide inexpensive goods to low-income earners.

The owner of a Blue Flag shop in Lop Buri's Muang district was arrested yesterday for selling masks at 20 baht apiece, officials said.

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