Indonesian starts business to make hazmat suit for hospitals

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Her friends who worked in hospitals cried, and Indonesian businesswoman Maryati Dimursi listened: They did not have the protective gear they needed to treat patients suspected of having COVID-19. Some had resorted to wearing plastic raincoats.

She listened, and then she acted.

She asked her friends about what might be done — what kinds of protective clothing might do the job, what materials would be needed to make them.

“One of them sent me the hazmat suit so I can make a prototype from it,” Dimursi said.

Now, Dimursi has designed such a suit, and she aims to make hundreds of them and provide them to hospitals for free.

She went door-to-door looking for partners in Depok, the West Java city where she runs her merchandising business near the capital. She found five who run home-based garment businesses, and they agreed to only charge for the cost of labor to make the suits.

“It will help the tailors to continue their life, too,” Dimursi said.

One of her partners, Tating, has three tailors who usually make Muslim clothing for sale online. He’s now postponing other orders to finish the hazmat suits first.

“This is the least I can do as a person who is working in the fashion industry,” said Tating, who like many Indonesians uses one name.

Some hospitals and clinics asked to buy the suits, but Dimursi insists they will get them for free.

Her fundraising announcement on social media was answered with donations as well as volunteers to help produce and distribute the suits. She first thought she would provide 50, but enough was donated to produce 1,000.

Dimursi has a list of 20 hospitals that urgently need them. GMZ Hospital in Lampung province will be among the first recipients. When a recent patient was being monitored for possible COVID-19, the hospital had only eight hazmat suits left. The pharmacist, the registration official and others wore plastic raincoats.

Dimursi admits she had some doubts after people commenting on her Instagram post questioned the quality of the suits, which use material that doesn’t fit the usual specifications for surgical hazmat suits.

“Then there was a friend, who is a doctor, urged me to keep providing hazmat suits. He told me that the hazmat suit would be much better than the plastic raincoat” in an emergency, Dimursi said.

Wednesday, two weeks after she started working on her idea, the fabric arrived and tailors got to work. They are racing against time; Dimursi planned to distribute the suits next week.

One of Tating’s tailors, Zaenury, said he wants to do something that can help contain the pandemic and is confident his sewing can produce good quality hazmat suits.

“But I do not want to do it for a long time. If I do it longer, it means there are more people infected,” Zaenury said.