Derry’s Chamber calls on Executive to establish local PPE supply chain
They have written to Finance Minister Conor Murphy MLA, Health Minister Robin Swann MLA, and Economy Minister Diane Dodds MLA urging the Executive to adopt a new and sustainable strategy for procuring PPE which is more secure, readily available, and develops stronger supply chains locally.
At the beginning of the pandemic in March, over 450 companies in the North repurposed their operations to meet serious PPE shortages within the health service, including several North West-based firms.
Much higher levels of PPE, on a much more frequent basis, will be necessary for thousands of front-line workers across the health service as well as other sectors in the economy for the foreseeable future.
Paul Clancy, Chief Executive, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce said: “Covid-19 exposed serious problems in how Northern Ireland sources and procures its PPE stocks. When the virus looked like it might possibly overwhelm our health service, there was a scramble to get equipment from halfway across the world.
“While we are rightly proud of local companies like O’Neills, Bloc Blinds, Nuprint and many others who pivoted their businesses to ensure our doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals had the PPE they needed, the Executive now needs to put in place a comprehensive strategy which will ensure we have a strong, secure and consistent stream of PPE.”
He said that as the virus naturally peaks and troughs, and until a vaccine is developed, PPE will ‘become a feature of daily life’.
“With the economy and other sectors of our society gradually reopening, PPE will be used by a wider section of frontline workers than just our healthcare staff.”
Mr Clancy said we need a ‘more readily available supply chain closer to home’.
“Local companies have proven that they have the expertise and skills to fulfil these orders, but they need support from government and assurances that they can win significant public procurement contracts before they commit to the long-term investment and permanently reconfiguring their business operations.”
Mr Clancy added that a local PPE supply chain could create thousands of highly-skilled, more secure jobs ‘at a time when we are entering a deep recession and redundancies are very likely’.
“It would also reward companies who stepped up to the challenge at the start of the pandemic and give them long-term, secure contracts to manufacture crucial equipment for our frontline workers.
“Northern Ireland, and the North West in particular, has a highly-skilled manufacturing and textiles base which would only too happily take part in this supply chain.”
He urged Executive Ministers to ‘work on a cross-departmental basis to set up a Northern Ireland PPE supply chain which ensures we have a constant stock of protective equipment for our frontline workers, supports firms which have been significantly impacted by Covid-19, and provides new and highly-skilled jobs at a time of unprecedented economic upheaval’.