The small business building emergency hand wash stations in Australia

UNIQUE APPROACH: Designer Peter Bevitt with one of the 26 emergency hand sanitiser stations set to be installed in Bega on Saturday. Picture: Alasdair McDonald
UNIQUE APPROACH: Designer Peter Bevitt with one of the 26 emergency hand sanitiser stations set to be installed in Bega on Saturday. Picture: Alasdair McDonald

It has been labelled "liquid gold" and a local medical professional says it could save more Australian lives than hospitals.

A global shortage of hand sanitiser and what is being perceived as a lack of action by authorities, has inspired an innovative group to help make our daily lives safer during the unfolding COVID-19 public health crisis.

Bega general practitioner and anaesthetist Duncan Mackinnon, renowned Frogs Hollow designer Peter Bevitt and Stony Creek's North of Eden distillery have joined forces to not just supply the region with hand sanitiser, but also place workshop-made emergency hand washing stations in busy retail centres.

Dr Mackinnon said Bega's Sapphire Marketplace is set to install some of the 26 dispensers this weekend, after the distillery successfully switched its business model to manufacture the alcohol-based disinfectant to World Health Organisation standards.

"We're trying to put some social pressure on our leaders, so hopefully they can be involved in having them put in place all along the coast," Dr Mckinnon said.

This is a good time to reflect on how we need to be as a community. It's about thinking about others.

Emergency hand washing station designer Peter Bevitt

With thousands of sales continuing per day at the centre, Dr Mackinnon said the few remaining shops open will continue to have increased demand, making hand washing points crucial in protecting communities from any possible spread of the virus.

He said he is hoping the project will "influence from the bottom up".

With local retail stores low on stock, Mr Bevitt was forced to travel as far as Canberra and Batemans Bay to source the step ladders used to construct the stations.

"The global economy has been shown for what it is; it's flawed," Mr Bevitt said.

"We've got to get back to being self-sufficient, and being able to think outside the box.

"The government has to recognise businesses with initiative and reward that. This is a good time to reflect on how we need to be as a community. It's about thinking about others."

Emergency hand washing stations have been installed everywhere from shopping centres to refugee camps as the world grapples with the global pandemic.

Mr Bevitt said the design "just came" to him, after a discussion with Dr Mackinnon about the need to help the community during the pandemic. It took him and his son a week to construct the stations, which are durable and light weight.

"To do something quickly you have to be efficient," Mr Bevitt, who has designed products for car companies and the dairy industry, said.

A number of local businesses also helped with the final product, painted in a bold "safety yellow" colour.

Rural Doctors Association of Australia's clinical leadandAustralian College of Rural and Remote Medicine's COVID-19 Rural and Remote Response spokesperson Adam Coltzau said he has received a number of complaints about the lack of cleaning products on shop shelves, and said he has taken the issue up with government.

He said the emergency washing stations are "quite unique" for Australia, and an important public health measure.

"Hand washing is really important, and although soap and water is the best option, it's not possible in places like supermarkets and petrol stations," Dr Coltzau said.

Dr Coltzau warned rural and remote Australians not to become complacent in slowing the spread of the virus.

"If coronavirus gets a chance to spread widely throughout rural and remote Australia, the pressure on our already stretched rural healthcare system will be enormous - and it will cost lives.

"We are pleading with rural and remote Australians - show the community spirit that the Australian bush is famous for, and keep doing your bit to prevent the spread of this virus.

"Keep ensuring that you and your family are self-isolating, practising good hand hygiene, and avoiding unnecessary travel.

"Coronavirus is not just impacting our major cities - it is already spreading in rural communities.

"We saw the community spirit of the Australian bush thrive during the recent bushfires. We need that same community spirit now," he said.

On Wednesday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian admitted their is a global shortage in hand sanitiser, handwash soap, gloves, cleaning products, protective clothing, masks, eyewear and paper products, and lobbied for local manufacturers to begin producing them for the local market.

"This is a call to arms for NSW manufacturers to look at ways to convert production lines into making the items we so desperately need," Ms Berejiklian said.

"We have the ability within NSW to meet our local demand and the Government is moving to help manufacturers re-tool quickly to achieve this.

"Importantly, providing this opportunity to manufacturers will also allow some businesses to keep people in jobs when they may not have been able to do so."

This story The GP, distillery and designer building emergency hand washing stations first appeared on Bega District News.