British Columbia

Some B.C care homes say they're running short on personal protective equipment

B.C. care homes worry about the shortage of personal protective equipment, while health officials say there is enough now that new shipments have arrived.

Health officials say there is enough to go around as new shipments arrive

SafeCare B.C. has started collecting donations of unused personal protection equipment to contribute to the province's stockpile as well to give to members without any supplies. (SafeCare BC)

Michele Thomson has turned to social media to gather personal protective equipment (PPE) for the two private long-term care homes she oversees, fearing they will run out in a matter of days.

"We are struggling with our PPE," said Thomson, who is the vice-president of operations for Buron Healthcare which runs long-term care centres in Prince George and Penticton. 

Thanks to new shipments from health authorities they now have three to seven days of supplies. But she worries what will happen after that. 

"We haven't been able to get clear answers as to how we can access the provincial supply chain and what will happen when we don't have the supplies we need," said Thomson. 

The health ministry says while the global response to COVID-19 has "led to significant international demand for PPE," it is "taking significant steps to ensure that healthcare workers are protected and have the appropriate PPE when they need it and where they need it." 

A shelf for personal protective gear is bare in this photo supplied by SafeCare B.C. (SafeCare B.C.)

Over the long-weekend, the ministry says it received a shipment of 109,800 N95 respirators, 51,000 face shields and 1,200,000 gloves. As well, 295,000 N95 respirators arrived from Alberta over the last few days

On Wednesday, the province's health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said the province has been working on the issue of PPE supply for some time. 

"We are absolutely working in every long-term facility in our province to ensure that every encounter with a person, patient, a resident in that facility is done safely and that for the most part includes health care workers wearing a mask for those encounters," said Henry. 

As of Wednesday, there were 75 deaths in B.C. — the majority of deaths linked to care homes for seniors. 

There are active outbreaks at 21 long-term care homes in the Lower Mainland, where 265 residents and staff have tested positive for the disease. 

In the Fraser Health region, Dr. Victoria Lee says there is enough equipment, but officials set priorities for where it goes and won't hand out  a months' supply at one time. 

"However, the supplies can be mobilized within a couple of hours as soon as we are aware of any concerns," said Lee, during a telephone news conference.

SafeCare B.C. is collecting unused and unopened PPE from the public, so far they've received over 400,000 items. (SafeCare B.C.)

SafeCare B.C., a workplace health and safety association which represents 860 organizations, says long-term care homes have received additional levels of support when it comes to PPE, but home-care workers in the community still need help.

"I had someone reach out yesterday saying they were unsuccessful in securing any personal protective equipment from health authorities and from their own commercial providers, so it's still very much an urgent situation that requires a concentrated effort to address," said Jennifer Lyle, CEO of SafeCare B.C.

Lyle said they ended up providing that member with PPE collected through their own donation drive called Operation Protect, which accepts unused and unopened PPE equipment from the public. 

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