Friday, June 28, 2013

The N95 mask - why liddat also must try and make money?

Gigamole remains incredulous that people continue to profit from selling what is essentially an emergency resource to protect the public from an environment health hazard.

The N95 mask, arguably the gold standard protective breathing mask during the current Sumatran haze, continue to be sold at prices way above their unit costs.At one stage Tan Tock Seng Hospital was selling the masks at S$60 per pack of 20. After public protests, the hospital meekly lowered their costs to be in line with what other public hospitals were selling, S$50 per pack or 20. Some other private outlets were selling at even more outrageous prices.

But prices have since come down. Fairprice and NTUC Unity were reportedly selling at the lowest price per mask, S$2.25. Even so the price per mask is still way above their actual unit costs.

A quick check on the internet gives a reasonable idea what the actual retail unit costs per mask might be. At Amazon, you can buy a pack of 20 (N95 3M 8210) for US$14.95 (S$18.94), which makes the unit cost approximately $0.95. At ebay, you can buy same pack of 20 for US13.99 (S$17.72) with free shipping to Singapore. Only S$0.86 per mask!

So why are we still having to purchase these masks in Singapore for more that S$2 per mask? And why not enough masks? These are emergency supplies.In times of need they should be distributed free to the public, or at the very least supplied at cost.

The unresolved problem of the haze has somehow made the N95 mask into an icon that represents what the public views as gahmen insensitivity and incompetence. And Gigamole remains baffled as to why the gahmen continues to behave as if it is locked in a mode of operation that daily widens the gulf between it and the public. Why, for example, continue to report an outdated and useless PSI unless it is true that these reports are meant to lull the public into accepting the severity hazard? Why the lack of readiness to supply personal protective wear? Are we to believe that the gahmen is really ready and prepared for a repeat of SARS? Could it be that they never really learned from the last epidemic?

Gigamole is disheartened. Perhaps our leaders have been too protected by mega salaries, and too cocooned in their cosy madarinates to become responsive and effective.


Anonymous said...

This is indeed! Our society is forcing it's people to behave in this way. People are getting poorer, thus they resort to selling stuff in demand to earn profit. Just Like the hello kitty!

Anonymous said...

i checked Amazon. The price shown does not include the tax, shipping and handling. If you actually "checked out the shopping cart",you pay more than $60 per box... not really better

(provided I am not wrong)

gigamole said...

You are right about the shipping costs from Amazon. My estimates deliberately left this out as the estimates were meant to merely reflect the unit costs at the location of sale, for example, if you purchase it in the US. The unit cost estimated this way agrees very well with the ebay unit cost estimates. The indication is that retail unit costs are really much less than what is available locally.

So how much did MOH purchase the N95 masks for? Surely it must have been tendered at or near the unit costs estimates from Amazon/ebay. Maybe even cheaper because of the economies of scale.

Somehow between the warehouse and the customer, prices more than doubled. What gives?

Anonymous said...

agrees with you, buying in bulk is probably cheaper.

too bad many institutions are ran by "business-minded". my experience working in the various locations tell me ethics takes a backseat.

(i remembered a case 10 yrs ago where the business office constantly harass me because the tormented might not be able to afford further stay)

-Anonymous (July 8)