One of Australia’s only surgical-grade face mask producers says it is worried about Melbourne's compulsory mask rule, as it is already struggling to meet demand

Image: Getty
  • Australian face mask producer Med-Con has expressed frustration following the Victorian government’s announcement that masks are to be mandatory in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire.
  • The company has been producing masks 24/7 and is already struggling to meet existing demand.
  • Med-Con CEO Steve Csiszar told Business Insider Australia, “We’d love to be in a position where we could make twice as many masks and service everybody.”
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Victoria’s government made face coverings mandatory for people in Melbourne and the Mitchell shire from Thursday amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the rule is set to put a strain on surgical mask supplies.

Med-Con, based in Shepparton, Victoria, is one of Australia’s only medical-grade surgical mask manufacturers. Its main customer is the federal government, and it has a standing order with them to produce 59 million masks by the end of November – which it is currently on track to complete.

In March, the government deployed members of the Australian Defence Force to the factory to help increase production, the ABC reported.

However, Med-Con CEO Steve Csiszar told Business Insider Australia the company was “frustrated” following the Victorian government’s announcement that face masks would be mandatory.

“We’re full at the moment with our production – we’re working 24/7 – and we just physically can’t make any more masks,” he said.

The state government said “face coverings” are mandatory for people in Melbourne and Mitchell Shire when they leave their houses, following the spike in coronavirus cases. Csiszar expressed concerned people would resort to using “inferior” masks.

“A lot of these masks now that they’re recommending for people to use will be either imported masks or stuff that they make at home, or maybe the reusable type,” he said.

“But quite frankly, I wish we could supply them because we obviously make the surgical mask, which is the best mask to use, and I just feel a bit perturbed that people are going to have to use something that’s a bit inferior in the short-term.”

The company produces around four to five million masks a month – which are sent all over Australia – with its main priority being the health services sector.

“At the moment, we’re in a back order situation, we’re probably running a couple of million masks behind where we should be,” Csiszar said. The discrepancy, he said, is almost entirely due to the demand.

“The demand has just totally outstripped our ability to produce,” Csiszar added. “We’re just a bit frustrated. We’d love to be in a position where we could make twice as many masks and service everybody.”

Med-Con, however, has three more machines being commissioned this month which will increase is supply come August/September.

“As they get commissioned, each machine will add about a million a month,” he said. “So we could actually get up to as high as seven or eight million a month.”

The company will continue producing masks 24/7 possibly until the end of December.

“We’re not sure what’s going to happen with this pandemic after that but we’ll continue to make for as long as need be,” Csiszar said.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.