01/04/2020 - 13:50

Minderoo pledges $160m for COVID-19 response

01/04/2020 - 13:50

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Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation is flying in tonnes of medical supplies from China and increasing Western Australia's capacity to test for COVID-19, as part of a rescue package announced today.

Minderoo pledges $160m for COVID-19 response
Andrew Forrest says FMG’s relationships with China has allowed Minderoo Foundation to supercharge procurement efforts

Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation is flying in tonnes of medical supplies from China and increasing Western Australia's capacity to test for COVID-19, as part of a rescue package announced today.

Minderoo Foundation and Fortescue Metals Group, which is chaired by Mr Forrest, have organised a plane of medical supplies to arrive from China today, and two more flights on Friday and Saturday this week, to bring personal protective equipment.

The imported equipment includes more than 1 million N95-equivalent face masks, 400,000 surgical masks, 2.3 million medical-grade gloves, 100,000 nasal swabs, 200,000 medical coveralls, 10,000 medical goggles, 5,000 touch-less thermometers and over 33 ICU ventilators.

Mr Forrest said FMG’s relationships with China allowed Minderoo Foundation to supercharge procurement efforts, on behalf of and in collaboration with the state and federal governments.

"Unprecedented times cannot be met with a precedented response," he said.

"The trusted relationships, procurement expertise and logistics knowledge of the FMG and Minderoo Foundation teams have been fundamental in rapidly securing this vital equipment. 

“I thank the People's Republic of China for protecting our critical medical orders in the face of intense pressure from other nations.

“Without this, there would be no plane loads of equipment that we celebrate today for our first responders and suffering Australians."

Minderoo Foundation co-chair Nicola Forrest said the equitable distribution of the supplies would be coordinated with WA Health across key stakeholders in primary and aged care, private and public hospital systems and other frontline services based on the areas of greatest need.

"We are working with the WA government, the Australian Medical Association, WA's private hospitals, National COVID-19 Coordination Commission, National Incident Room and Aspen Medical to determine how we can best meet projected surges in demand for critical supplies," Mrs Forrest said. 

Health Minister Roger Cook thanked Minderoo Foundation and FMG for their support in finding the supplies for WA's broader health system, other stakeholders and frontline staff.

"To allow this generous commitment to continue to scale, the WA government will reimburse Minderoo Foundation at cost for the supplies purchased so that Minderoo Foundation can further leverage its incredible commitment of up to $160 million over the coming weeks and continue to source these critical medical supplies for Australia," Mr Cook said. 

AMA president Andrew Miller said the boost in availability of personal protective equipment would have a huge impact on the training, safety and morale of healthcare workers in first response, general practice, aged care, and public and private hospitals across the system.

“The relief particularly of doctors, health staff across our public and private hospitals, aged care facilities, first responders and allied health, in knowing that the state is about to receive 90 tonnes of medical supplies will be enormous,” Dr Miller said.

Minderoo Foundation is also planning to increase WA’s capacity to undertake broad scale testing of the community.

The foundation is working with BGI Genomics, Clinipath Pathology, the Harry Perkins Institute, the AMA and WA Health to develop a plan to increase the number of RNA-based diagnostic tests from 400 per day to up to 10,000.

Mr Forrest said those countries that had radically scaled testing had contained the virus and avoided untold human and economic hardship, while those who didn’t had suffered badly.

“To fight this virus we too must quickly identify infected individuals in the community, trace their contacts and ensure isolation and containment. I am very grateful to our partners for their immense effort in making this happen with us," he said.

The Minderoo Foundation COVID-19 response is being led by senior executive Steve Burnell, supported by the entire Minderoo Foundation and FMG teams, in particular the dedicated FMG team in China.  

Dr Burnell is the chief executive of Minderoo Foundation’s Collaborate against Cancer initiative and has a PhD in Biology.

Additionally, FMG announced this morning it had donated $1 million to the Royal Flying Doctor Service Western Operations to ensure it has the resources to deliver care during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The donation will support the Response for WA appeal, to make sure the RFDS has the necessary resources, infrastructure, capital and people to deliver its services for remote and regional Western Australians.

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