“It was then that I immediately understood the severity of what we might be facing,” Mr Kennedy said. “I thought to myself this is something I can definitely do and we can get the staff to be involved.”
This is the very sort of nimble pivoting NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian hopes to encourage in local businesses, as she issued a “call to arms” on Wednesday for help producing critical medical supplies for the battle against COVID-19.
“NSW relied on many different sources of equipment, including many from overseas, which no longer exist or have been massively disrupted,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Today I’m calling on the great people of our state, those great business people, those manufacturers who are able to re-tool, to consider re-tooling, to help supply the additional things we need in coming months.”
The government has launched an online portal for companies to register their capacity to produce eight urgently needed items – hand sanitiser, handwash soap, gloves, cleaning products, protective clothing, masks, eyewear and paper products.
Separately, Mr Kennedy and his team are producing about 1000 litres of hand sanitiser a day to keep up with demand, prioritising orders from local charities and clinics.
Poor Toms is using its two sites to produce hand sanitiser, rotating staff in two teams and ensuring they practice social distancing.
“We are trying to stay busy and productive, and make it sustainable for doctors to feel they can reorder without feeling they will be gouged or run out of hand sanitiser,” Mr Kennedy said.
“[Hand sanitiser] is a simple thing to blend and package, and we’ll keep doing it as long as they need it.”
Dr Dimitri, who has spent 10 years working in war zones, never thought he would see shortages for basic medical equipment, such as masks, gowns or hand sanitiser in Australia.
“People are desperate,” he said. “There are no options out there.”
Laura is a journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald.
Lisa Visentin is a state political reporter at The Sydney Morning Herald.