KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians are a generous lot as evident in recent contributions made for the country’s frontliners working around-the-clock to manage the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, amidst this, there are a bunch of unscrupulous individuals who view this as a time to generate fast money, especially since there is notable demand for certain essential items.
A doctor recently took to Facebook to share his discontent with these traders or middlemen who seek to maximise profit realising there is a critical need for medical supplies, such as ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) at hospitals and clinics nationwide.
Sharing with the New Straits Times, Dr Ahmad Ibrahim who works with the Central Medical Facility in Pengerang, Johor said he was in disbelief upon seeing the prices quoted by a reseller.
Dr Ibrahim is also volunteering with the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia (IMARET) Covid-19 response task force as part of its resource acquisition team.
He said Alphatec 1500, for instance, costs between RM15 and RM20 per unit, while Alphatec 2000 ranges between RM30 and RM45 each, and Tyvek is priced at RM45 to RM60 each, as quoted by wholesalers on their website.
“Due to the surge in demand for coveralls, there are a lot of resellers who bought these items wholesale with the hope of making big money.
“When we reached out to a reseller (as seen in image), we were quoted RM160 for each unit of Alphatec 1500, RM180 oer Alphatec 2000, RM 200 per Tyvek Cat III, and RM195 per Kleenguard A40,” he told the NST.
On his Facebook, Dr Ismail expressed his concern that most hospitals are running low on PPEs.
“I've had to scrape and beg for supplies to be channeled to our frontliners. As supplies become scarce, we have to decide how much can we spare and divide between hospitals that are handling Covid-19 cases.
“What makes me mad is that there are some individuals who are trying to profit from the dire situation by quoting crazy prices for PPEs. Capitalism at its best. If our healthcare system collapses there will be no barrier between the disease and the society. Please lah Malaysians,” he wrote.
The reseller said he was willing to reduce the price if the items were purchased in bulk, but only a reduction of RM15 per item.
In another instance, Dr Ibrahim said IMARET was looking to acquire ventilators to be donated to government hospitals.
It is the same scenario as mentioned above, he said, whereby when the hospital needs an item or equipment, they have to buy it from supplier agents or middlemen.
Sometimes the middlemen companies have bought these supplies in bulk and they would sell them to the ministry at extremely bloated prices, he said.
“One unnamed ministry official, who is in charge of acquisitions made a comment to our retail connections to see if that is possible, they want the retailers to sell the items directly to the ministry or NGOs to avoid overpaying.
“We've managed to buy these ventilators for RM39k-45k but other resellers might be selling them to the ministry for any numbers beyond that range.
“The retailers themselves don't have a say on the price set for resale. Although I understand the concept of willing buyer willing seller, I think it is inappropriate when it involves human lives.
“Patients and health care workers depend on these resources. I am baffled by the lack of togetherness and unity amongst resellers who are looking to make a quick buck in the midst of facing one of the worst disasters in the country,” he added.
Dr Ismail hoped that the government would impose stringent measures to curb this kind of action as they did in imposing ceiling prices for face masks.
The government, he said, could prompt a national unity initiative that forces all essential medical goods to be controlled and priced reasonably.