An emergency-room doctor at Peace Arch Hospital has launched a website aimed at helping ensure health-care workers both locally and across the province have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) – such as N95 masks – on hand to cope with an anticipated increase in COVID-19 cases.
Dr. Sunny Johal said he set up Mask a Hero British Columbia (maskaherobc.ca) on Sunday to connect those who have extras of unused supplies with hospital and other health-care organizations that need them, after a social-media post a week ago about the shortage prompted messages from “many” people wanting to know where to donate.
Johal – who has worked at PAH for about a year – said he heard from dentists’ offices, tattoo parlours and even those in the film industry who wanted to offer their stock.
“They said, ‘hey, we want to donate these – where and how do we do this?’” he said.
The site currently includes contact information for donation co-ordinators across B.C., including Peace Arch Hospital, Vancouver Coastal Health, Providence Health and Fraser Health, and is being updated regularly, Johal said, noting the website is also for Ontario, as he also has contacts – and a licence to practise – there.
In addition to masks, items sought include goggles, surgical gowns and face shields.
Johal emphasized he is not personally collecting the items.
“I created this website so that people know how they can donate to their local hospitals or health institutions, and what kind of supplies they might want, and who to contact, and then they’ll go through their local process,” he said.
Johal said he didn’t know exactly the current supply situation for Peace Arch Hospital, but said its position is similar to those across the country.
“We’re well aware and cognizant that there is limited personal protective equipment for health-care workers, so we are trying to conserve the supply as much as possible, but at the same time, we want to protect our health-care workers,” Johal said.
“Generally, what’s happening is we have a great team at Peace Arch… everyone banding together and preparing for what we think might be coming, which is an increase in cases of the COVID virus.”
He pointed to reports regarding New York physicians, respiratory therapists and other front-line service providers running out of PPE items or being “critically low.”
“I’m trying to get us to a situation where we’re not at that kind of critical situation where we unfortunately see others across the globe.”
The province’s health officer last week discouraged the use of masks by the general public, noting the practice hasn’t helped public health in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Where it is incredibly important is in the health care system,” Dr. Bonnie Henry said. “And we need to make sure we have masks and respirators for our health care providers to make sure that they stay safe.”
A similar appeal for medical supplies was also launched by SafeCare BC Monday.
In a news release, the organization said that ‘Operation Protect’ aims “to ensure critically needed personal protective equipment and medical supplies, such as gloves, masks, and hand sanitizer are available for health care workers.”
“We are hearing daily from long-term care homes, assisted living residences, and home care operators, because they are critically low of these supplies when they are most needed,” the release states.
“Health care workers are the heroes in our communities, providing care to the most vulnerable in our society, including our elders and those with critical health issues. They are doing this while facing unprecedented challenges. They need our support.”
The “urgent” appeal asks that anyone with “unused and unopened personal protective equipment or medical supplies, such as gloves, masks, gowns, eye protection, hand sanitizer and hospital-grade disinfectant wipes” to visit www.safecarebc.ca/operationprotect, or call 1-877-955-6565, to learn exactly what’s needed and how to donate.
The release notes the initiative is supported by BC Care Providers Association, BigSteelBox, City of Vancouver and City of Surrey.