Amid concerns of a looming shortage, local medical students are among those doing their part to help supply London-area medical workers with the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to do their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s all in support of a grassroots initiative spearheaded by the London Middlesex Primary Care Alliance (LMPCA).
The organization, comprised of family physicians, nurse practitioners and primary care administrators, issued a call to local groups and health care providers whose offices are closed to donate any PPE supplies they might have that could be given to front-line primary care workers — PPE like masks, face shields, gloves, gowns, and hand sanitizer.
Students at London’s Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry have been participating in the initiative, collecting the PPE from donors, sorting through it, and delivering it to local primary care teams based on need, said lead organizer Janet Dang.
According to a report by Western News, the students have also been assembling wellness packages for physicians and their team members as a morale booster. After three days, students had delivered supplies to 21 physicians and their offices, according to the report.
“We’re really amazed at the number of community volunteers who have come forward to help with whatever skills, talents and circumstances that they have who are giving their time and energy in so many different ways,” said Dang, who is also transformation lead at LMPCA, in an interview with Global News Radio 980 CFPL’s Jess Brady on Tuesday.
“This is truly a community effort and we are so grateful.”
Asked how much equipment had been collected from the community so far, Dang said quantifying an exact tally was tricky, but noted “quite a lot” had been donated.
“Whatever we’re getting in, we’re dispatching it out to physicians who are currently still seeing patients,” she said.
“There are still some individuals that do require to see their physician in person. This PPE is really needed to allow these physicians and our primary care providers and front-line staff to be able to see these individuals.”
Donors to the cause include more than just those who work in health care, like dentists, podiatrists, and veterinarians, Dang said. Others pitching include people who work in construction, and at hair salons and spas.
Organizations have also helped, including Fanshawe College, which last week donated all PPE from its retail store.
Among the donated items were 200 pairs of safety glasses, 120 respirator N95 masks, 40 boxes of latex powder-free sterile gloves, five gowns, 10 bottles of disinfectant and about 40 medical suits in various sizes. The college’s School of Health Sciences also donated masks, gloves, gowns, and surface wipes.
That was in addition to the 11 ventilators the College loaned London Health Sciences Centre earlier in the week.
The initiative comes amid fears of a critical PPE shortage as the number of positive COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, the number of confirmed cases across the country stood at 2,548, including 112 recoveries, and 27 deaths. In Ontario, there have been 558 confirmed cases, including eight recoveries and seven deaths.
Earlier this week, the City of Windsor and Essex County issued a call to the community for surplus PPE, including N95 respirator masks, surgical masks, gowns, nitrile globes, hand sanitizer, wipes, respirators and more.
N95 masks are able to filter out tiny particles and surgical masks can help contain coughs.
Drew Diklens, Windsor’s mayor, said the city had heard concerns from hospital workers that supplies looked like they could run out, adding the situation was critical.
“We don’t want to get to the point where it’s a dire situation. We want to act on it before that point and that’s exactly what we’re doing now,” he told The Canadian Press.
On Sunday, the Ontario Medical Association and the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario issued a joint statement pointing to fears of an imminent mask shortage and calling on governments and organizations to “continue their efforts to bring urgency to the global shortage of PPE and essential medical equipment.”
The two groups said a large stockpile of some 55 million expired N95 masks and other equipment, collected by the province in the aftermath of the 2003 SARS outbreak, could still be used in lower-risk areas.
They also called on anyone with masks who aren’t currently using them — like education institutions and other health professionals, such as dental workers — to hand them over so they can be given to front-line workers.
The federal government has said it’s secured millions more masks, which should be arriving shortly, but there’s still concern that won’t be enough.
Those looking to help the local initiative can contact Janet Dang at email@example.com.
— With files from Liam Casey of The Canadian Press