Economy & Politics

Exclusive protective gowns from Tunisia bring Laschet into trouble

North Rhine-Westphalia Prime Minister Armin Laschet: New trouble with a major order from his state government for the Van Laack fashion companyimago images / teamwork

It was a furious defensive attack on his own behalf that NRW Prime Minister Armin Laschet made at the beginning of December. It had just become known that Laschet’s state government had ordered corona protective equipment from the fashion manufacturer Van Laack for a total of 45.4 million euros – without a tender and through the mediation of his son, who is on the company’s payroll as a fashion influencer. A few days later, Laschet defended himself against allegations of nepotism, which had been raised by the SPD, among others, in the state parliament – waving his arms and anger in his voice. The head of government recalled the “desperate days” in spring when medical masks and protective gowns were extremely scarce and there was a “brutal” battle for masks. At that time, Laschet snorted, “phoned your fingers sore” in order to find “reputable providers” from Germany and North Rhine-Westphalia who could deliver quickly. “We asked everyone we know.”

Laschet, who wants to become the new CDU chairman in January, described the course of business with the company based in Mönchengladbach as follows: In the emergency in spring, he also asked his son for support because he knew his way around the fashion industry. His son then gave him the phone number of Van Laack boss Christian von Daniels, who could possibly help. On the phone, Daniels told him: “We have something, we can change our production.” In the next few days, “experts” from the country “marched there” to test the products. “That was the whole process,” Laschet affirmed. “Experts check the products. Some were useful, others weren’t. ”Of course, his son received neither money nor other benefits for the help.

On April 20, the State Ministry of Health finally ordered Van Laack – no medical masks, but 10 million protective gowns for hospitals and other institutions. The state police followed suit in June and November and ordered fabric masks for service operations for a total of 4 million euros. Until November, the state awarded contracts – due to the crisis – always by hand and without tendering. According to a list by the Ministry of Health, Van Laack became the agency’s second largest supplier of corona protective equipment in the spring. Since then, the state SPD has suspected clique. After all, other providers would have reported back then and did not get a call from the father of the country straight away. An accusation that not only Laschet rejects as “shabby”, but also the Van Laack boss. Daniels emphasizes that his company was chosen because of its low prices, short delivery times and the quality of its products.

But after research by Personal-Financial.com and “Stern”, there are doubts about the quality of all things. On request, the Essen University Hospital has now confirmed that it had received a total of 40,320 gowns from the Van Laack company for corona treatment from the state on August 27, 2020. The smocks were “checked by our hygiene and not released for use in our house”, “because they tear quickly when you put them on,” said a spokesman. Similar complaints can also be heard from aid organizations that were supplied with Van Laack smocks from the country in the summer.

Last week, the former pirate politician and current publicist Christopher Lauer wrote to various university hospitals in North Rhine-Westphalia for his podcast and asked about their experiences with Van Laack smocks. The University Hospital in Münster replied to him on Thursday in a way that allowed doubts about the smocks. At the beginning of September, a total of 28,800 Van Laack smocks were received from the state government. So far, they have not been used, because a “review” is imminent as to whether the Van Laack gowns meet the EN 14126 standard for protective clothing against infections. This examination is “still pending”, according to the clinic in its email to Lauer, which Personal-Financial.com and “Stern” have received. “Therefore, no statement can be made about this delivery,” wrote the university hospital. If the gowns “do not meet the standard, they will not be used accordingly”.

“Van Laack protective gowns are lying around unused in North Rhine-Westphalia because they are not certified according to EN 14126,” the ex-pirate headlined on Friday, slightly pointed. Yesterday, Monday, “Stern” and Personal-Financial.com asked the clinic in Münster. How did the test of the smock fail so far? The health facility subordinated to the country rowed back to this. A spokeswoman for the university clinic assured that the protective gowns had “of course demonstrably met the necessary DIN standard upon delivery.” An “ad hoc examination of the documents” has now been initiated “depending on the occasion” and we have unambiguous documents that prove compliance with DIN EN 14126: 2004 ”. Thus “nothing stands in the way of the local clinical use after this additional voluntary test”, she announced.

No certification body in Germany

That sounded different on Thursday opposite Lauer. And if you look at the Van Laack website, you will only find a single declaration of conformity for the company’s health products – for gowns in accordance with the EN 13034 standard. These gowns, the company declares “under sole responsibility” and with the signature of the boss, fulfilled the relevant regulations as protective clothing, with “limited protection against liquid chemicals and infectious agents”.

According to the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, EN 13034 is of course the standard for protection against liquid chemicals – not for protection against infection. Gowns with infection protection, for example against the coronavirus, must meet the EN 14126 standard also mentioned by the Münster University Hospital. The certificate on the Van Laack website is also only dated September 24th. So what certification did the company have in April when the state government ordered ten million pieces?

The question also arises because at that time it was not even possible in Germany to get such a certification of infection protection gowns. The Federal Ministry of Health confirmed this at the beginning of May in response to a request from FDP MP Sandra Weeser. In this country there are currently only those conformity assessment bodies that certify chemical protective suits “without the additional test against infectious agents according to DIN EN 14126”, said Parliamentary State Secretary Thomas Gebhart (CDU).

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