An ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. (The Canadian Press)

Protective equipment coming in for B.C. health care workers in COVID-19

Portable tests coming for remote communities, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

With B.C. care homes for seniors and developmentally disabled people running out of masks, gowns and other protective equipment for the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, relief supplies are arriving, Health Minister Adrian Dix says.

At least one Easter weekend shipment has helped with more than 100,000 N95 respirators, 51,000 face shields and 1.2 million gloves. More are expected during the week but the ministry isn’t announcing them until they are in hand and approved for use.

“Our supply continues to arrive in amounts that is keeping us ahead of the need,” Dix said at a pandemic briefing April 13. “We would love to say we’re in a position that we’re flush for a long time. That is still no longer the case. We still have to work on this, both on the supply side and ensuring that we use personal protective equipment properly.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry imposed tighter restrictions on the use of disposable supplies to reduce the “burn rate” in facilities on heightened alert. She and Dix also thanked the Alberta government for its April 11 announcement it is sharing goggles, N95 masks, gowns and gloves with B.C., Ontario and Quebec. Alberta is also sharing its stock of ventilators, for assistance on people in intensive care with breathing failure.

RELATED: Alberta shares protective gear with B.C., Ontario, Quebec

RELATED: New testing machine takes load off B.C. medical labs

The B.C. crisis was highlighted by the release of a survey April 11 by SafeCareBC, a health and safety association that includes home care and disabled community living as well as senior long-term and assisted living operators.

As of the Easter weekend, the survey reported that 77 per cent had three days’ supply or less of N95 masks and 51 per cent said they were running out of eye protection. Sixty-two per cent reported aweek’s supply or less of hand sanitizer, 45 per cent had three days or less in exam gloves and 49 per were in the same situation with gowns.

Dix noted that the priority is on maintaining supply at hospitals and long-term care homes, and work continues to “meet needs in the full spectrum of health care.”

Henry was asked April 13 about Health Canada’s approval of a rapid COVID-19 tester made by Ottawa-based Spartan Bioscience. She said the Spartan machines are spoken for and not likely available for B.C. until this summer, but the B.C. Centre for Disease Control is using a similar test with machines that B.C. has.

“Our strategy right now is to deploy those to areas of the province where we have challenges with turnaround time and that has been rolled out over the next week ago,” Henry said. “This new test has very low capacity as well, so you can’t do a whole lot at once. It is also good for these types of things in more remote communities.”


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