Forrest uses iron ties to secure medical supplies

FORTESCUE Metals Group has joined forces with its chairman Dr Andrew Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation to procure and distribute lifesaving medical supplies and equipment for Western Australia.
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FMG and Minderoo Foundation chairman Dr Andrew Forrest.

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Minderoo is committing up to $160 million towards the supplies and to ramp up accurate RNA-based COVID-19 testing at least 20-fold.

The first plane of critical medical supplies from the world's largest producer, China, left Shanghai on April 1 bound for Perth.

Minderoo Foundation arranged the charter of the Airbus A330, operated by China Eastern. 

Aiming to resolve Australia's extreme shortage of personal protective equipment, two more flights are due to arrive on April 4 and 5, together bringing more than 90t of medical supplies.

This will include 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, 5000 touch-less thermometers and more than 33 intensive care unit-grade ventilators.

Forrest said FMG's deep and enduring relationships with China were unparalleled in Australia.

He said that allowed Minderoo Foundation to boost its procurement efforts, on behalf of and in collaboration with the Western Australian and federal governments. 

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

"Our nation is facing a threat not seen in our lifetimes.

"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 front-line 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," she said. 

WA health minister Roger Cook said the WA Government would reimburse Minderoo Foundation at cost for the supplies purchased so Minderoo Foundation could further leverage its commitment of up to $160 million over the coming weeks and continue to source the critical medical supplies for Australia. 

Minderoo Foundation's response to the pandemic also involves rapidly scaling WA's capacity to undertake broad scale testing of the community.

A detailed plan to scale the number of accurate RNA-based diagnostic COVID-19 tests being undertaken in Western Australia from 400 per day up to 10,000 has been prepared and will be implemented shortly.

Minderoo Foundation is working with BGI Genomics, Clinipath Pathology, the Harry Perkins Institute, the AMA and WA Health in this effort.

Forrest said the countries that had radically scaled testing had contained the virus.  

"Those who didn't, have suffered badly," he said.

"To fight this virus we too must quickly identify infected individuals in the community, trace their contacts and ensure isolation and containment."

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