McMaster and HWDSB donate thousands of supplies to protect health care workers

Thousands of masks, goggles and protective suits sitting idle at McMaster University have been gathered up to be redistributed to healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak in Hamilton.

'There is an incredibly high demand for these supplies,' says Karen Mossman

The HWDSB and McMaster University are both donating thousands of pieces of personal protective equipment, like this gear worn during a 2014 training exercise in Ottawa, to protect healthcare workers during the COVID-19 outbreak. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Thousands of masks, goggles and protective suits sitting idle at McMaster University have been gathered up to be redistributed to healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak in Hamilton.

The Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) is also doing what it can to lend a hand. Or, more accurately, 75,000 hands, by collecting boxes of medical gloves that will be donated to public health officials.

The generosity of the two local institutions is just part of an effort being carried out by individuals, organizations and companies across the city to make sure frontline healthcare workers have the right personal protective equipment (PPE) to keep them safe.

Health officials have been raising the alarm about the dwindling supply of medical gear as the outbreak continues. And regions such as Brant County have made public pleas for unopened boxes of masks and hand sanitizer to support paramedics.

Premier Doug Ford has called on Ontario manufacturers to shift their resources to producing PPE and the government website, Ontario Together, was also launched to help the province and companies address medical shortages.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has evolved over recent weeks and there has been competitive global demand for personal protective equipment," said HWDSB spokesperson Shawn McKillop in an email, explaining there are 100 gloves in each of the 750 boxes the board will be handing over.

"It's a great amount for a great cause!"

Faculties from across McMaster are also chipping in, raiding labs and offices for gear from face shields to sanitizers and swabs.

"We're renowned for innovation and interdisciplinary collaboration," stated health sciences dean Paul O'Byrne in a media release. "This is a fine example of how our creativity and partnerships can quickly come up with solutions."

All research labs at the university except those working on COVID-19 were directed to shut down as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.

"If there's a silver lining to closing our labs it's that we're able to support our hospital partners, their staff and the patients in their care," explained Karen Mossman, McMaster's acting vice-president of research.

"Surplus personal protective equipment and other safety-related materials that otherwise would have sat unused in our labs, are now being redeployed to our hospitals where there is an incredibly high demand for these supplies."

Annette LaCivita, manager of supply chain strategy at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), described the university's response to COVID 19 as "overwhelming."

The website for HHS says staff are "grateful" so many are stepping up with donations, but noted they're now asking people to contact them first to make sure they can accept the equipment and that it meets the standards required.

Anyone looking to donate or supply products is asked to email PPEdonations@hhsc.ca and provide the following:

  • A product description and code (if applicable).
  • Details on whether any boxes involved are open or closed.
  • A contact name, email and phone number.


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