A Sydney-based brokerage that purchased and donated 30,000 medical-grade face masks to health professionals is now fundraising for a further 35,000 to help alleviate national shortages amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Leading brokerage Catalyst has launched a GoFundMe campaign to purchase up to 35,000 KN95 face masks for health professionals, with an aim of raising $100,000 towards the goal.
Speaking to The Adviser about the fundraiser, Catalyst managing director Adrian Lee noted that there has been a national shortage of surgical face masks as the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic takes hold – putting medical staff and patients at risk.
Mr Lee outlined that while the Australian government is expecting to land about 30 million masks in the next few weeks, “until then, many of our medical staff and critically ill patients are going unprotected”, with reports emerging this week of some hospital staff being advised to reuse single-use face masks due to shortages.
The broker revealed that Catalyst had already purchased and distributed 30,000 of these medical-grade face masks after securing them from a client who imports medical supplies. However, given the high demand from hospitals for the masks (with the full shipment reportedly allocated within a day), the brokerage is now looking to secure more masks, with the help of industry.
Mr Lee said: “Being in financial services, we have felt a bit unsure about how we can meaningfully support our amazing frontline health professionals and the incredible work they are doing to combat COVID-19.
“Thankfully, we have a client who imports medical supplies, and we were able to secure some medical-grade face masks, which we know are in such limited supply across the country.
“We’ve been given the opportunity to secure a further allocation of at least 20,000 masks, but this time around we (industry) help to pay for them.”
Catalyst has set up a GoFundMe page to raise the funds needed to complete the order for up to 35,000 face masks, with nearly $60,000 of the $100,000 target secured in a day.
“Our goal is to raise $100,000 so we can buy as many masks as possible,” Mr Lee said, urging the broking industry to support the initiative to “keep our medical staff and the patients they treat as safe as possible during this challenging time.”
The masks are going to multiple aged care and GP facilities across the country, as well as:
Representatives from some of these hospitals noted that any contribution at this time is “significant”, particularly as concerns abound over access and availability of personal protective equipment for frontline staff.
Brokers could ‘pivot focus’ to help distressed clients
Looking more broadly at the impacts of COVID-19, Mr Lee predicted that the economic climate could mean that “purchasers are going to drop off a cliff (and so will refinancing due to the option of repayment freezes)”. however, he added that the broking industry would be busy helping clients with repayment freezes and accessing the government and bank-announced support packages.
He said: “We, as brokers, are uniquely positioned to pivot our focus and help our clients by digesting the various federal and state stimulus packages and advising clients how they apply to them personally and to their businesses – to help them get through these challenging times and still have a business on the other side.
“My guys are [working] full-time on repayment freezes, assisting clients access the $250,000 government-backed business loan, mediating hardship calls, restructuring private debt etc,” he added.
According to the Catalyst managing director, his salaried team at the brokerage have all offered to take half pay while continuing to work full-time to ensure the business can “remain at full capacity” and service clients who need access to immediate cash flow loans and any critical ad hoc restructuring requirements.
“They are all working around the clock, seven days a week, and they are doing it purely to help our clients get through this,” he said, adding it was “the proudest he has ever been” of the team.
Those wishing to donate to the GoFundMe face mask campaign can do so here.
You can find out more about Adrian Lee and his brokerage Catalyst, in next week's epsiode of the Elite Broker podcast.
[Related: Banks expand loan relief policies]
Annie Kane is the editor of The Adviser and Mortgage Business.
As well as writing about the Australian broking industry, the mortgage market, financial regulation, fintechs and the wider lending landscape – Annie is also the host of the Elite Broker and In Focus podcasts and The Adviser Live webcasts.
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