British Columbia

B.C. secures new supply of surgical masks that exceed Health Canada standards

Millions of respirator masks that British Columbia purchased from a manufacturer in China have been given a stamp of approval by separate labs, making them available for health workers, Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

B.C. boosts stockpile to 3 million with new respirators, equivalent of sought-after N95 masks, minister says

A health-care worker at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver in April. B.C. now has a stockpile of at least three million masks for health-care workers, according to the health minister. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Millions of respirator masks that British Columbia purchased from a manufacturer in China have been given a stamp of approval by separate labs, making them available for health workers, Health Minister Adrian Dix said.

Tests by two independent labs show the masks exceed Health Canada requirements, Dix said during a news conference on Tuesday.

The respirators are the equivalent to the sought-after N95 masks made by 3M, he said.

B.C. now has a stockpile of three million of the masks, which puts the province in a good position to resume elective surgeries and prepare for a possible second wave of the virus, the minister said.

"This is excellent news,'' said Dix. "The new respirator has also passed fluid resistance testing conducted by independent laboratories and has had excellent results in terms of sample fit testing to confirm the respirators seal the faces of the majority of health-care workers.''

He said the new supply is a result of diligent behind-the-scenes efforts of health officials to test and acquire sources of personal protective equipment in a difficult market.

"With the news many are hearing about personal protective equipment quality and counterfeiting in other jurisdictions, I know health-care workers and the public have concerns about the safety and effectiveness of personal protective equipment,'' said Dix.

He said the supply of the new respirators will reduce B.C.'s reliance on traditional manufacturers of masks, which were the subject of intense global procurement efforts.

A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face shield, an N95 mask and gloves outside the emergency department at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, B.C., on April 12. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press)

He said the province is still looking to increase its supply of other personal protective equipment items, including surgical masks, gowns and gloves.

Dix said the Health Ministry has also recently purchased a leading model filtration machine that will be used to test the quality of personal protective equipment the province acquires.

As of Tuesday, 2,601 positive cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the province and 2,229 people have recovered.

N95 respirator masks, one of which is pictured here, have been in high demand during the pandemic. The masks are disposable respirators used in health-care settings as well as industrial and construction sites. (CBC/Radio-Canada)

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