Guest: Paul Coffey
Presenter: Wayne Bucklar
Guest Bio: Paul Coffey and his wife Jo are the Directors of Solmed, a family business located in Western Sydney at Penrith NSW. Paul spent many years with Medtel, Tuta Healthcare & more recently with Multigate before joining the family company. Paul was responsible for Building a Certified Medical Device Manufacturing Plant in Thailand which was later sold to B Braun and is well aware of the fundamentals of Medical Supplies & Devices. He has worked in Clinical, Sales, Marketing, Regulatory Affairs, Production, Quality Assurance and Inventory Logistics with Medical Products most of his life after a period of Military Service.
Segment overview: In today’s Health Supplier Segment, we are joined by Solmed Director Paul Coffey who is here to discuss their wide array of hospital approved medical consumables and devices available to consumers at wholesale prices across Australia and to offer clinical assistance to back up the sales. Solmed supplies products to Hospitals, Medical Centres, Day Surgeries, GPs, First Aid Stations, Paramedics, Schools & the General Consumer. Their customers are scattered across the nation from the top of remote Australia, to the outback of the West and South to the apple Isle of Tasmania.
Health Professional Radio
Wayne Bucklar: You’re listening to Health Professional Radio with Wayne Bucklar. Today my guest is Paul Coffey. Paul is the director of SOLMED Proprietary Limited, a Sydney based firm. Paul, welcome to Health Professional Radio. Tell us a little bit about Solmed.
Paul Coffey: Thank you for the opportunity Wayne. Solmed was registered back in 2008 following a long career in the medical device and clinical industry and it was set up basically to provide hospital quality products that with very rare to be able to get for the public but to be able to supply those hospital quality products, in other words “validated products,” all TGA approved direct to the consumer. And has it worked out? Not only did it go out to the consumer but as the business is built, it’s been going into the hospitals and remote healthcare establishments, first aid, post mines and that sort of thing.
W: Now Paul, Solmed is a Sydney based firm but your footprint is much bigger than that. Who do you service geographically?
P: We service all the way up to Gold Coast, for example or rough up north in Arnhem Land all the way down the… right across to the mines across in Western Australia … all the way out there. So virtually anywhere in Australia, anyone who’s got access to the internet or can find us can generally source products from us.
W: Okay, so give us a sense of the range of product. What sorts of things are we talking about?
P: Okay, we’re talking about basic consumables for example a “first aid kit.” And I might add, the first aid kits we carry are all work safety compliant. So basically if anybody wanted a bandage, they can get a bandage of it a band aid. But we go into much more elaborate product range than that, we go all the way into a lot of intravenous, a lot of anesthesia, a lot of the urology for example catheters, Foley catheters, Nelaton Intermittent catheters, fully enclosed catheter for the disabled. All those types of products, so we’re not just a consumable product, we’re a device company as well.
W: Okay, so this is the range of gear that you would find in a lot of the hospitals. What’s the difference? Why does SOLMED exist?
P: Alright, well first of all most hospitals go through government contracts and can buy obviously ISO 13485 certified products which I’d have to add which are “TGA registered” of course. But for the public to get access to a lot of these products, they cannot because that hospitals obviously buy in bulking cartons and lots, not always but most of the times. And for the companies that manufacture this product they’re not interested in the consumers, though they might go through a whole seller in the pharmacy, but then the pharmacy throws a lot of margin and mark up on there and there’s a lot of fact in there for if I can use that expression for the margins. But with us because of our 35 years in the industry, working in the industry most of these can come well known to me. And they supply us their products, obviously we have to do a certain amount of turnover in some cases but they supply us and we’ll break boxes. So in other words the same products go into the hospitals can be sourced from us and we have many occasions where people ring us and say “Oh I just got out of the hospital, this is the bandage I’m using, this is what’s recommend. Do you carry it?” Yes, we do this is a wound care dressing I have, do you carry it? Yes we do. But I don’t need to buy, can I just get them 1’s and 2’s or half a dozen and that’s where we succeed.
W: And while pharmacies do carry or do sell a range of products, they generally don’t have a lot of stock if you’re dialyzing at home with something and you need a few liters of saline that’s not going to be on a shelf of your local pharmacy.
P: Absolutely right and that’s where we come into play and when people learn about us and find out where we are and they’re just so happy that they can come and get this types of products. Not only the saline if they dialyzing for example, but they might want a cannula, they might want the IV set that goes with it. So we have all that as well and we have the expertise to talk about it.
W: Now Paul, you talk about breaking cartons and I guess that means you don’t have to buy a carton of something if you only want a few of them. Wouldn’t hospitals and nursing homes just consume cartons anyway?
P: No, not necessarily. A good example was only last week were we had Nepean Hospital called us, they wanted some specific ENT instruments, they didn’t want to use 50 to come in a carton. They just wanted 5 that they want to buy 5 of that perhaps every few months, but they don’t want the expiry to go out. So that’s the example I can give you of just a recent one.
W: And an expiry never even occurred to me. A lot of these products have expiry because of the sterilization I suppose.
P: They all do. And that’s the key that people say “Oh I’m not gonna buy a box cause it’s gonna end up chucking out in a month.” So that’s the advantage as well.
W: So Paul a lot of our audience are clinicians, what’s the take away message that you’d like them to have?
P: Well with clinicians, that first I’d like to them to get to know us. And this is one of the advantage that took me here today, that they just need to go online solmed.com.au and then they will see the range we have, and it’s firstly a one-stop-shop. The only thing at this stage we can’t supply pharmaceuticals but every consumable medical advice and consumable we can supply. And pharmaceuticals is down the track because we’re currently in discussions with some major pharmaceutical people to get our license. So that’s an example as well. But more of the hospitals and the clinicians are gonna say “well I want this, for I have a patient with this issue.” Wound care could be a good example, what can I expect from SOLMED? Well first of all, we only carry products for wound care that have clinically published, studies already published and we can back it up with the science and research.
W: Paul in every business, there are misconceptions and it’s my favorite question. What are the misconceptions about your business that drives you nut and keep you awake at night?
P: It’s interesting you ask that Wayne. The biggest thing that keeps me awake at night is the cowboys I see that are online selling similar to our products with no clinical knowledge, without any experience whatsoever and the danger of giving bad advice, that’s one aspect that keeps me awake at night. The second aspect that keeps me awake at night is a lot of the influx of product coming in to China, India, Pakistan and those types of products that haven’t even gone through TGA ordered or TGA registration, and there’s such the customers are really taking in some instances a big risk buying those products, just to get a bit cheaper. I think the biggest headache for me is that every product we have, we have to register. It cost money depending on whether it’s a class I, class II, whether it’s sterile or non-sterile but all of them cost money, even the basic band aid we carry has a TGA list of registration. So we’re just not prepared to take risk but a lot of customers out there go and buy from these companies online that don’t have any of those precautions in place. So that keeps me awake at night sometimes.
W: Now that Therapeutic Goods Registration process, how does that benefit the consumer? What’s in it for them by dealing with someone whose got TGA?
P: Okay. First of all, if a product has a “TGA listed” that means that the TGA has accepted that the international standard certification for that being a medical device is current and validated. For example a manufacture from China or India, there’s lots of them unless they have an internationally recognized certification of 13485 and the latest one is in 2013, then they cannot or they are not supposed to export those products to countries such as us or America. We have the TGA, America has the FDA. And that’s the advantage the customer has, that if you’ve got that TGA listing, all the manufacturing processes and all the claims made for that product to perform have been audited by an independent advisory body and that’s the important aspect.
W: And I guess clinicians would know this but for anyone who’s not a clinician listening, if you’re going to rely on a product for your health and wellbeing, I guess you need the certification.
P: Absolutely. Well I’ll give you an example of just a basic fingertip pulse oximeter, you can go online and buy them from China and they’re very inexpensive. However, we have already come across certain pulse oximeters that don’t comply with the international standards. So those companies haven’t been audited, they haven’t been tested, if they’re not a plus or minus point 1% of degree of accuracy, well then they don’t comply but many of them we’ve seen online have tested are nowhere near the accuracy they’re supposed to be. So that’s why another reason TGA, anyone with TGA listed products, that consumers should have the confidence. The hospitals by the way Wayne, actually insist on TGA compliance and that’s why when we say we supply hospital approved and contracted products, that’s what we mean by that.
W: Paul I can understand why that would keep you awake at night, that’s certainly a big issue. Can I say thank you for your time this morning. Your passion’s obvious when I talk to you about this field, and it’s nice to know that someone’s out there looking to make this more accessible for those hospital at home patients and others who need the service. You mentioned your website earlier, but I’ll mention it again because every time I do this, I get complaints when I don’t let people pick up their pens.
W: So due warning people, pick up your pencils www.solmed.com.au and the phone number for you Paul?
P: Yes, it’s 02 we’re in Penrith the Western part of Sydney. So it’s 02 4721 0371
W: So that was 02 for Sydney, 4721 0371. My name is Wayne Bucklar, you’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. My guest this morning has been Paul Coffey of Solmed Proprietary Limited. If you’ve just joined us, well you just missed the interviewed but the good news is we have a transcript on our website and a SoundCloud archive and it’s on YouTube as well at www.hpr.fm This is Health Professional Radio, my name is Wayne Bucklar.