Vinkele warns medics running out of protective gear

  • 2020-05-11
  • LETA/TBT Staff

RIGA - If the supply of medics' personal protective equipment (PPE) remains critically low, decisions on scaling down health care services will have to be taken in a couple of weeks, Health Minister Ilze Vinkele (For Development/For) warned after the weekly coalition meeting today.

The minister told journalists that the existing supplies of respirators might be exhausted soon and that the situation with other protective gear is similar.

She said that work is ongoing to find a solution to the situation.

"We are currently in a very serious situation regarding the availability of PPE for health care institutions. The supplies are critically low," the minister admitted.

The shortage of respirators is especially pressing. According to the available data, the medics might run out of respirators in one and a half day.

The situation with disposable gowns and protective suits is also difficult, which means that the work of the Emergency Medical Service could be suspended at any time as the supplies run out, said Vinkele.

The supplies of surgical masks are sufficient for about two weeks, the minister said.

If there was a fast solution for supplying medics with protective gear, it would have been used already, but competition for these products is tough in the world, Prime Minister Krisjanis Karins (New Unity) said after today's coalition meeting. 

The prime minister said that these medical goods should be purchased in China but suppliers in this country often cheat with the necessary safety certificates. Latvia cannot check uncertified PPE, but testing them in foreign countries would take several weeks, Karins said. 

In such situations, the prime minister recommended using common sense to determine whether the supplied goods can be used to protect the medics. 

The health minister also said that specialists from Riga Stradins University (RSU) and Riga Technical University have been involved in testing PPE and that they have found their quality to be good enough. 

As reported, the State Center for Defense Military Objects and Procurement has been tasked with making the centralized purchases of PPE and disinfection products and ensure their storage, creating a reserve for at least three months. The State Fire and Rescue Service will be keeping a list of prioritized institutions and their procurement needs, while the National Health Service and other health experts will assist with setting quality standards for PPE and disinfection products.

According to the Defense Ministry's publicly available information, the State Center for Defense Military Objects and Procurement has so far concluded agreements on the purchase of disposable face masks, medical masks and respirators. The contracts have been concluded with companies registered in Latvia and Singapore.

The State Center for Defense Military Objects and Procurement has also concluded contracts with local producers on the delivery of 182,460 liters of disinfectants.

Defense Minister Artis Pabriks said last week that the situation with PPE is difficult not only in Latvia but in the whole world as deliveries are being delayed.