The seeds of friendship planted a decade ago almost 10,000km away bore fruit this week when medical grade masks worth as much as €100,000 on the open market were donated to care homes across Limerick through the Age Friendly programme. The 20,000 masks, which have a regular retail price of up to €5 each, arrived late last week all the way from Nanjing in China thanks to a relationship built with authorities there a decade ago by then Limerick Mayor Jim Long.
The former politician began nurturing relationships with the Chinese city of 8 million back in 2011, leading to a Memorandum of Understanding later in the decade between the two cities that targeted deepening of diplomatic links and, in time, trade links also.
However, this week the tie up paid off as the masks arrived free of charge to Limerick, with the first 5,000 of them distributed to Milford Hospice and the remainder to be divided among private nursing homes across the city and county.
Mr Long said that he was motivated by his daughter and granddaughter to make the call to contacts in Nanjing after they recounted their experiences to him as frontline workers in the private nursing homes sector.
“They told me about the struggle they were having in the earlier stages, in particular, with sourcing PPE in private nursing homes so I decided to make the call to the foreign affairs office in Nanjing and within a week or so they came back to say that they wanted to donate 20,000 medical grade face masks for older people in Limerick.
“Delegates from there first came here in 2011 and they really loved Limerick. They were here to learn and they were very interested in how we treat our elderly. Older citizens are hugely important to them. So when I informed them recently that elderly care homes were worst affected by the pandemic here and that we were having a huge difficulty in getting masks, they moved very quickly to make this very generous gesture.”
Said Anne Rizzo, Programme Manager of Limerick City and County Council’s ‘Age Friendly Limerick’ programme: “This is a hugely welcome gesture as we all know of the challenges that care homes had with getting PPE at the outset of the pandemic and PPE doesn’t come cheap. The reality is that this supply could cost up to €100,000 to buy here in Ireland, so while the masks will cover only a few weeks across the network we are distributing them to, the money saving to them is very important.
“We owe a debt of gratitude to Jim Long for doing this on behalf of older people in Limerick and the people who look after them. It’s a statement as to what the older population and frontline staff means to us here. It also shows the impact Jim and Limerick generally made on decision makers in Nanjing. We are delighted too at the Age Friendly Programme that he sought us out to distribute them. We’ve found very good homes for them.”
Said Kay Chawke, Director of Nursing, Therapy and Social Care at Milford Care Centre: “This is a very generous gesture from Nanjing, Age Friendly Limerick and from Jim Long, without whom this would never have happened. We are living in very challenging times and are doing all that we can to protect both our very vulnerable residents and our highly committed staff. This donation of high quality, medical grade masks at this time will greatly assist us in meeting this objective. We are very grateful to all involved and, in particular, to Jim Long for thinking of us and please be assured that you are making a very positive difference in supporting the work that we do here in Milford.”