The Health Board (Terviseamet) has handed out free protective masks to pharmacists. Some of those masks had expired as far back as 2011, however. Now the Health Board is in a position where they shouldn´t need to send the masks to pharmacists at all, however, since supply chains have stabilized and everybody can buy them.
Manager and pharmacist Tiiu Vaha, who operates three Nurme Apteek pharmacies in the western town of Haapsalu, said that the board sent them masks in March and April which had been manufactured in 2006, and expired in 2011. Additionally, at the beginning of April, the Health Board sent dust masks, whose defense capability is worse than surgical masks offer.
"These masks were sent to us by the state. We are health care workers, we can´t work behind closed doors. People come to us with our worries and problems. We are always trying to solve them and, sadly, the state is sending these kinds of masks," Vaha said.
The Health Board confirmed that the faulty masks originated from the period when the shortage of protective masks was at its most critical. They had obtained them from the volunteer Defense League (Kaitseliit), and sent them all over Estonia. The Health Board claims that they informed pharmacy associations and the State Agency of Medicine (Raviamet) when they realized the issue with the expired masks.
The board has replaced less than 2,000 of these masks so far. At the same time, handing out free protective masks via the Health Board is planned to be halted, it is reported.
Chief Specialist at the board's emergency medicine department Andras Banyasz explained that by now, supply chains have started to recover.
"We are continuing with obtaining the necessary products, but we are gradually trying to return to the normal situation that was before the crisis. The normal situation was when every company, every legal person, was responsible for supplying them together with the needed protective equipment, and we are hoping to return to that normality soon," Banyasz said.
If the Health Board confirms that they had offered to replace all the expired masks, however, then something has happened along the lines of a communication breakdown, since the replacement masks haven´t reached Nurme pharmacy, the pharmacy says.
Editor: Roberta Vaino