New UBC documentary takes us into the heart of the PPE crisis in the U.S.

Click to play video 'New documentary explores the challenges of securing pandemic medical supplies' New documentary explores the challenges of securing pandemic medical supplies
With coronavirus cases entering a second wave across parts of North America, will B.C. Experience a further shortage of medical supplies like PPE? A new documentary produced by UBC explores the differences between the U.S. And Candian experiences during the pandemic. Linda Aylesworth reports.

From the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, governments around the world have been scrambling to obtain enough personal protective equipment for front-line health-care workers.

America’s Medical Supply Crisis, a new documentary produced in part by the University of British Columbia’s Global Reporting Centre, looks at the critical shortage of PPE in the U.S.

Click to play video '‘America’s Medical Supply Crisis’' ‘America’s Medical Supply Crisis’
‘America’s Medical Supply Crisis’

“Doctors and nurses were saying they didn’t have gowns, they didn’t have masks, they didn’t have face shields, all of these things,” director Peter Klein said. “So the question was, why?”

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Much of the problem stemmed from how the pandemic disrupted global supply chains, according to Klein.

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“We started looking around the world, looking at how things like masks and gloves as well as ventilators were travelling around the world, and it was clear from the start that the United States was, in many cases, the worst-case scenario,” Klein said. “Supply chains just collapsed there.”

Click to play video 'Report says China hoarded Canadian PPE in early days of COVID-19 outbreak' Report says China hoarded Canadian PPE in early days of COVID-19 outbreak
Report says China hoarded Canadian PPE in early days of COVID-19 outbreak

The film compares the Canadian government’s strategy for addressing the PPE shortage to the approach taken by the White House.

“[In the U.S.] there was denial from the beginning that this isn’t a problem,” Klein said. “If it is a problem, it’s going to go away overnight. In Canada, there was an acknowledgment that this is a real issue.”
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Canada had fewer issues with PPE supply than the U.S., which depended heavily on China for its masks, Klein added.

Read more: United Front groups in Canada helped Beijing stockpile coronavirus safety supplies

“When China itself was hit with the virus in December, January, February, they needed that equipment and so understandably, they took it,” Klein said. “But that left the rest of the world in the lurch.”

Canada was less reliant on China for PPE supplies, Klein said, as it had a more diversified supply chain and efforts have been made to diversify it further during the pandemic by having Canadian companies produce medical equipment and supplies.

The U.S. was less proactive, Klein said.

“There was kind of a hands-off approach that industry will figure it out,” he said.

“Well, what ended up happening is you have governors of 50 different states were bidding against each other, outbidding each other for medical supplies, undercutting each other.”