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Nova Scotia taps private sector for pandemic supplies and services

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil makes an announcement in Halifax, Friday, Friday, Dec 20, 2019. Nova Scotia is requiring public sector workers and public school children who travel abroad to isolate themselves for two weeks when they return to Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ted Pritchard.
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil makes an announcement in Halifax, Friday, Friday, Dec 20, 2019. Nova Scotia is requiring public sector workers and public school children who travel abroad to isolate themselves for two weeks when they return to Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ted Pritchard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ted Pritchard

As COVID-19 cases approach triple digits in Nova Scotia, the provincial government is turning to the private sector to answer a critical need for emergency supplies and services.

This week, it released a procurement call to businesses and organizations that can produce personal protective gear, hospital equipment and personnel for essential services, like food and laundry.

To be clear, said Premier Stephen McNeil, the government’s not asking for donations — it’s willing to pay.

“As you know, we’re part of the national procurement proposal,” he told reporters at a Wednesday press conference. “Some of the distilleries here in Nova Scotia are now making hand sanitizer, and at the same time we have a number of companies that are looking to retool here to make ventilators or gowns as part of that national movement.”

McNeil insisted the request to private businesses is not in anticipation of a current supply shortage in Nova Scotia hospitals.

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The government is looking for hand sanitizer, disposable masks, gowns, hospital beds and ventilators, among other pandemic prevention products. It’s also looking for security guards, tech support workers, nurses, and cleaners.

Last but not least, the province says it’s looking for “innovative solutions” to support its response to the novel coronavirus — things like virtual mental health support, supply chain resiliency monitoring and financial planning advice for struggling small businesses.

It will also continue to make requests for supplies and services through the federal procurement program.

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“Government has ordered basic health-care items such as gloves, gowns, scrubs, and sanitizers in large quantities, as well as more specialized items,” wrote spokesperson Marla MacInnis.

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“Although we have put in this order, we have adequate supplies to meet our current demand. We anticipate further opportunities to place orders through the federal procurement program.”

Nova Scotia construction industry grapples with invisible threat of COVID-19
Nova Scotia construction industry grapples with invisible threat of COVID-19

The call has already grabbed attention from Nova Scotia’s private sector.

Scott Moffitt, executive director of BioNova, said he’s already alerted his members to the McNeil government’s request. BioNova represents the province’s health and life sciences industry.

“It’s a very big call to action and I think it’s a big opportunity for this sector to step forward and support the health system, Nova Scotians and beyond,” Moffitt told Global News on Friday.

“The companies in our sector are, for the most part, often highly regulated as medical devices or pharmaceutical products, so they already understand the requirements that the Nova Scotia Health Authority is going to be operating under.”

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This morning, BioNova issued a survey to all its member companies asking about what they donated so far and what they’re able to contribute in the future.

Moffitt said they’ve been generous with donations to date, with one member, Solid State Pharma, contributing 10,000 pieces of nitrile medical examination gloves, one box of N95 masks, 25 lab coats and a commitment to prepare 10 litres of hand sanitizer.

BioNova executive director Scott Moffitt says his members are well-positioned to support Nova Scotia in its pandemic response. He’s seen here at the BioNova office in Halifax on March 27, 2020.
BioNova executive director Scott Moffitt says his members are well-positioned to support Nova Scotia in its pandemic response. He’s seen here at the BioNova office in Halifax on March 27, 2020. Elizabeth McSheffrey/Global News

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The Nova Scotia Health Authority said its donation volume has been “steady” since the pandemic hit the province, but it’s still welcoming all contributions of personal protective gear.

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It’s asking members of the public not to call busy hospitals and clinics, however, but to contact its new email address: PPEOffer@nshealth.ca.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.