'Critical phase': Officials concerned over lack of personal protective equipment for health-care workers
Published Thursday, March 26, 2020 11:08AM PDT Last Updated Thursday, March 26, 2020 11:12AM PDT
VANCOUVER -- B.C.’s top doctor acknowledged Wednesday what health-care workers have been saying for weeks -- that there is a shortage of the personal protective equipment (PPE) meant to protect them on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis.
Dr. Bonnie Henry says they have been actively monitoring supplies, but as COVID-19 cases requiring hospitalization have increased, PPE is being used faster than expected, with Henry saying the so-called "burn rate" is much higher than they had anticipated.
"We are putting in place measures now to try and control that and be more efficient and effective and how we're using PPE," Henry said. "We have new shipments on order and we're looking at things like alternative supplies across the board, alternative ways of preserving personal protective equipment so it is available both now and in the future."
CTV News spoke with one Metro Vancouver nurse this week who said her team was so concerned about a lack of masks, some nurses considered how they could use shoe covers on their faces instead in an effort to protect themselves on the job. Others have said supplies are being kept under lock and key in some facilities.
The problem isn’t just in B.C. In Toronto, some hospitals are rationing PPE, with doctors allowed to use just one mask per day in an effort to maintain supply.
Locally, donations of unused PPE, like masks and gloves, are being collected and will be re-distributed into the provincial supply chain.
Henry says more details on B.C’s plan to preserve PPE will be released in the next few days.
"We are at a bit of a critical phase," Henry said. "This happened quite quickly."
Coquitlam business plans to make millions of masks
A Coquitlam textiles business says it is pivoting its business in hopes of helping with the shortage of masks across the country.
Jason Zanatta with Novo Textiles says when the prime minister called on Canadian businesses to re-tool factories to help with medical supplies last week, he had an idea.
The company has previously produced medical supplies, including hospital pillows. Zanatta leveraged some of his overseas contacts and quickly ordered a machine to make surgical masks.
"We had never done masks before. The manufacturing process is similar in lot of ways. In terms of pivoting, there is a massive shortage across Canada. And I have a shortage of work for people. So how can I pair those two things together," Zanatta told CTV News.
The Novo Textiles factory is now being prepared and restructured for the installation of the new machine. Testing is expected to start Sunday, with hopes the company may be making surgical masks by Wednesday.
Zanatta says he isn’t sure yet where the masks will be used but says he has reached out to the federal and provincial governments as well as local health authorities.
"The goal for the machine is to make sure we are getting protective surgical masks in the hands of the people that need them most. Nurses, first responders, doctors and dentists across the country," Zanatta said.
Medical-grade raw materials are now being flown in from around the world. Zanatta says the machine can make about 100,000 masks a day. He expects they should be about to make about two million masks with the materials from their initial order.