The Ministry of Health sells millions of mouthpieces, which it has purchased with taxpayer money, at bargain prices to foreign buyers. Then they return the hats to the Dutch market.
Since the beginning of the Corona crisis, the ministry has kept the emergency stockpile of about 700 million masks. 300 million of those are at risk of reaching their expiration date next year. That is why the ministry is now trying to get rid of it.
Among the suppliers who sold masks to the ministry at the beginning of the Corona crisis was the Mouthmask Factory. In 2020, it offered 48 million oral surgical masks, priced between 15 and 30 euros per pack of 50, say owners Fleur Bakker and Johann Blume. The Lithuanian ministry and company confirmed that the ministry has now sold 26 million of these hats to the Lithuanian company Baltic Masks.
The ministry said that a total of 161 million face masks were sold abroad. Mouthmask Factory hears from many foreign buyers that they buy hats from the ministry for 64 cents per box of fifty. Baltic Masks themselves don’t want to say how much they paid for the mouth masks, but talks about “Really good price“.
The company also produces the mouthpieces themselves, but says it bought the Dutch masks because they were too cheap.
a tenth of the price
BJ Hudepohl, director of mouth mask maker Lemoine Holland, also sees how the caps he gave the ministry are disappearing abroad. Lemoine hats were sold by the ministry to a commercial party. Across Asia and France, they were offered back to Lemoine this week, for a tenth of the price.
“It’s a shame they are being sold to the rest of the world, while we’re making them for Dutch healthcare,” Hudepohl says.
Offer is free?
Hospitals are now asking for their mouth coverings for a higher market price of five euros for fifty masks. The Mouthmask Factory recently received orders from the Rijnstate Hospital in Arnhem and VUmc in Amsterdam.
Hudepohl van Lemoine, Bakker and Blom van de Mondmaskerfabriek argue that the hats that are quickly becoming obsolete in the Ministry should be provided free of charge to Dutch healthcare institutions. “They’re going to be destroyed anyway,” Hodepol says.
But the ministry does not do this, because free distribution or selling at below market price will affect the market and affect Dutch suppliers.
Several hospitals have announced that they are not allowed to order face masks from LCH, because it has been agreed nationally that this is only allowed if delivery via regular partners is no longer possible.
The department denies it sells mouthpieces for 64 cents per pack, but is not specific on the matter. “In order not to jeopardize the sales position of the LCH office, no statements were made on the sales prices used,” the ministry said in a written response. Personal protective equipment sold at current market prices.
According to Fleur Bakker of the Mouthmask Factory, selling expired hats isn’t necessary at all. “The middle layer of a surgical mouth mask is a fixed layer that loses its static energy over time. The cap then expires. But with an ionizing applicator, this layer can be recharged relatively easily.”
This technology has already been submitted to the Ministry. This admits that the technique works, but says, for example, that the rubber bands can slack off, too.
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