In a time of overwhelming uncertainty from the viral pandemic, there is a need for the country to come together to overcome COVID-19.
National energy conglomerate Petronas has stepped forward to become one of the first few corporations joining in the collective national effort to fight the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped Malaysia and other nations, by lending support in impactful, large-scale and meaningful ways.
The corporation, in its 46-year history, is well-known for its consistent long-term commitment to social responsibility and welfare that extends beyond monetary value.
Mission of help
On March 23, Petronas, through its dedicated CSR arm Yayasan Petronas (YP), took the first step in the long-term coordination of a massive contribution to the fight against COVID -19 with a RM20 million donation in the form of critical, life-saving medical equipment and medical supplies, to the Ministry of Health (MoH) and the National Disaster Management Agency (NADMA).
Speaking to Yayasan Petronas’ Chief Executive Officer Lita Osman, we learnt of the full breadth and depth of the multi-stakeholder and complex logistical effort to identify, source, transport and distribute hundreds of much-needed items, including the electrical intensive-care unit (ICU) beds that weigh 250kg each, as well as other necessary medical supplies such as ventilators, personal protective equipment (PPE) and masks, that will certainly support the fight where it matters -- the frontlines, as thousands of patients are now being treated.
Lita elaborates on Petronas’ mission of providing assistance and contribution to those who need it the most during this difficult time.
“I am grateful for the multi-stakeholder effort that allowed this contribution to happen,” she said during our phone interview in Kuala Lumpur; “This mission to contribute to society became clear when the pandemic struck, and we thought immediately, how can we help everyone, regardless of whether they are B40 (low income group) or otherwise, and regardless of their background?”
Lita emphasised that Petronas wanted to help and “the focus was to equip frontliners, including doctors, nurses, other personnel in health services, police officers and even immigration personnel,” under the guidance of the MoH and NADMA. These are the people who are keeping Malaysians safe and doing their best to mitigate the worst outcomes of the pandemic.
Having personally spoken to the director-general of the National Security Council to convey the earnest wishes of YP to contribute to the most urgent needs outlined by MoH and NADMA, Lita – backed by the full support of Petronas Chairman Datuk Ahmad Nizam Salleh who also serves as Chairman of YP - galvanised the YP team and key personnel from Petronas’ Group Procurement, Legal and Finance divisions, who overcame multiple challenges to ensure these critical items were procured.
“MoH shared with us its list of certified medical equipment and supply vendors, and we contacted these vendors directly to discuss our needs,” said Lita.
As most suppliers are based in China, there were considerations to manage, such as communication and logistical challenges, including how to transport some of these items, such as the ICU beds in a safe and timely manner.
In this respect, she added, “We were given such incredible support from the Transport Ministry and carriers such as AirAsia, to help MoH meet its medical equipment needs.”
Lita relates that in the span of a week, the Petronas team managed to source and purchase 100 electrical ICU beds, ventilators, virus test systems, high-grade PPE items and masks, among others, that was much-needed by gazetted hospitals and quarantine centres across Malaysia.
“It was important for all of us involved to swiftly respond, commit and contribute to this crisis. We pulled all stops to ensure the equipment was procured quickly and transported in a timely and safe manner. There are patients in urgent need of the medical equipment, and we had to consider there were many other countries that were also looking to procure the same equipment with the same sense of urgency.”
Petronas is also working towards developing a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) prototype. This technology helps lessen the dependency of COVID-19 patients on ventilators in Malaysia. The machines were originally developed by Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team at Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) in collaboration with University College London (UCL) as part of ‘Project Pitlane’, a collective effort of seven Formula One teams to manufacture and deliver respiratory devices in the United Kingdom. Some initial discussions have taken place recently between Petronas and MoH pertaining to similar efforts being implemented in Malaysia.
Driving long-term help
More recently, Petronas staff have come together to donate RM6.4 million through a voluntary salary contribution initiative to be channelled to the Tabung COVID-19 under NADMA. The contribution aims to expand the funds at NADMA’s disposal towards intensifying the responses amidst this pandemic, especially towards the distribution of essential supplies and PPE to front-line staff and volunteers.
Petronas President and Group Chief Executive Officer Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin has said that success in overcoming the pandemic requires all, including those not on the front line battling the disease, to show courage, compassion and generosity to others.
The salary contribution by staff is in addition to PETRONAS’ various contributions already made via its business operating units and subsidiaries in Malaysia as well as throughout the world. As at April 17, Petronas’ total contributions towards COVID-19 efforts have amounted to RM37.8 million, which includes the RM6.4 million staff contribution.
This amount also includes contributions from Petronas’ Association of Wives and Women Employees (PETRONITA), which had managed to raise RM255,000 through a donation drive and used the funds to purchase medical equipment that included powered air-purifying respirators (PARP), portable ventilators and video laryngoscopes, as well as supplies such as refrigerators, air purifiers, standing fans and ward screens for identified gazetted hospitals.
Meanwhile, Petronas Chemicals Group Berhad (PCG) is helping to contribute to the production of 18,750 plastic face shields for use by medical frontliners in Malaysia, while Petronas Dagangan Berhad (PDB) had contributed Mesra Mineral Water and Mesra Bites buns to the medical staff stationed at the COVID-19 government hospital screening centres.
These CSR contributions gained recognition from Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba who said, “We’re very happy to see the commitment of various organisations, including Petronas, to support the government in battling COVID-19 in the country.
“The collaboration between the government and corporations shows our strong commitment to fight COVID-19 and I am truly grateful to all healthcare frontliners and other personnel, who are directly or indirectly involved in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia,” he said, emphasising that the government is taking all the necessary steps to mitigate the spread of the virus in Malaysia. These steps include improving available resources, laboratory facilities, health clinics, and hospitals to treat COVID-19 cases. MoH is also collaborating with the private sector to address the COVID-19 situation.
“Our effort goes beyond saving lives,” added Lita. “These efforts do not end when the pandemic is over. We are planning to support groups such as the B40 community across the nation, to ease their burdens and improve their living standards for a longer term via Program Sentuhan Kasih,” she said.
“Let’s do our part in every little way we can, to stand strong and in solidarity with our brave frontliners in managing this national crisis together.”
Such efforts vastly contribute to the greater well-being of a nation in the longer run, and as corporations such as Petronas lend their might and energy to such causes, Malaysia can hope to forge a stronger, healing bond for the future.