The worst of time brings out the best in people!

Yaw Teck Seng Foundation director Dato Sri JC Fong (third right), Deputy Chief Minister and State Disaster Management Committee Chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah (centre), Local Government and Housing Minister Dato Sri Dr Sim Kui Hian (third left) and Samling Group’s management team handing over the PCR machines and medical-grade protective body suits to Sarawak General Hospital.

How did a Malaysian company contribute as much as China donated in medical supplies to Spain and Belgium for Covid-19?

It all began one sunny morning, when James Ho, chief operating officer (COO) of Samling came into Lawrence Chia, chief executive officer (CEO) of Samling’s office and said, “we are having problems getting sufficient masks, sanitisers and thermometers for our people in Sarawak. Everywhere, supplies are running out! Chia responded, “We need to act fast and do whatever it takes to get the supplies to our people.”

That started the ball rolling, with frantic calls to Samling’s colleagues in China, to help source the medical supplies.  And what began as an effort to procure supplies for their own people turned into a massive exercise to equip Sarawak hospitals with the right medical equipment and much needed medical supplies.

In the most trying of times, amidst the uncertainty and grim statistics, it proves that unexpected kindness is the most powerful, and yet, the most underrated agent of human change.

Villagers with the essential food packs donated by Samling.

This is the story of the Samling Group, the Yaw Teck Seng Foundation and the Parkcity Group. Based in Sarawak, their story is one of extraordinary men, who had gone to remarkable lengths to secure and donate much needed medical equipment and medical supplies to hospitals and the community in Sarawak.

In this battle against Covid -19, to protect the frontliners, as well as the local community, Samling donated an entire molecular biology lab that was set up at Miri Hospital with RNA extractors and other necessary equipment. The existing laboratory space was renovated and upgraded into a molecular laboratory with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing capabilities, together with supplemental lab equipment.

In addition, a total of three real-time PCR machines were donated to Sarawak General Hospital in Kuching and Bintulu Hospital. 15 ventilators were also contributed to hospitals in Kuching, Miri, Bintulu, Limbang and Sarikei.

To date, Samling had donated more than 3 million masks, 9,000 personal protective equipment (PPE), 600 hand held temperature scanners, 10,000 gloves and 2,450 bottles of hand sanitisers to about 100 hospitals and polyclinics in northern Sarawak and the Bintulu-Tatau region.

Government agencies such as Customs, the Red Crescent Society and welfare groups were also recipients of the medical supplies.

Delivering essential food packs to Rh Gundi in Nanga Kakus by longboat.

But it did not stop there. 20,000 food and provision packages comprising rice, sugar, cooking oil, flour, biscuits and noodles were urgently distributed to the rural communities of Baram, Layun, Kuala Baram, Lawas, Tinjar regions of northern Sarawak and the Bintulu-Tatau region.

When asked what the biggest challenge in this procurement exercise was, Ho said, “Procuring medical equipment and medical supplies, at this time, is like moving mountain and earth.”

First, we had to use our China connections to persuade competent manufacturers to ramp up production.

“Next, we had to insist on the requisite certification, as we had to ensure that the equipment and supplies met international standards.

“Then, we had to make sure that the critical medical equipment and supplies do not end up sitting in warehouses waiting to get on cargo planes.”

The medical equipment and medical supplies were more than 10 tonnes equivalent to 4×40 foot container. Amazingly, all the above were airfreighted all the way from China to Sarawak in good time. 

Upon arrival in Kuching airport, another odyssey began with 24-48 hour drives to get the equipment and supplies to the hospitals and thence to the Klinik Kesihatan and Klinik Komuniti in the interiors and rural areas.

Samling staff member crossing Sg Aton using the conventional suspension ‘cable car’ to deliver the food packs to residents of Lg Aton.

Samling’s efforts were indeed exceptional, outstanding and remarkable and should be acknowledged and applauded.

In the light of these challenges, ample evidence of heart-warming humanity abounds, bringing relief and a smile when it is most needed.

Finally, Chia’s parting words were, “This is not even the beginning of the end of the pandemic. Rather, this is the end of the beginning, we need to realise that we have a long road ahead of us, and each of us need to adapt to the new norm. Stay Safe!”