Apr. 2, 2020

Why were we not told of the lack of virus supplies?

Perhaps some will now understand why I have been so skeptical of this Federal Government and governments generally in this country. 

Here is the reality from doctors on the front lines:

 From Canadian Medical Association today: “Physician poll reveals lack of masks and supplies much starker than portrayed; health providers at risk today – CMA” 

The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) is calling for urgent action to address the lack of supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health providers across the country. In a rapid poll conducted by the CMA this week, physicians are reporting a much starker picture of the state of supply at the frontlines than what some of our political leaders have been sharing. 

Collecting the feedback of almost 5,000 physician members in 48 hours, the survey highlights issues in supply and distribution, as well as an over all lack of information on how to get supplies to health providers who are on the frontline of COVID-19. 

• More than a third of physicians in community care (e.g., office-based, walk-in clinics) believe they will run out of respirators (N95 masks), eye/face shields and goggles/glasses within two days or fewer or had already run out.

• More than two thirds (71%) of physicians in community care have tried to order supplies in the past month, and fewer than 15% received confirmation that supplies were en route or had been received. In Nova Scotia, only 2% of physicians indicated that their recent order had been received or was being shipped.  

• When it comes to alternate supply sources, one in 10 physicians waiting on supplies was aware of a government source of supply, with the rate being highest in Alberta (26%) and lowest in Nova Scotia (5%) and New Brunswick (0%). 

• Physicians in hospital settings were largely unaware how long the current supply in their practice would last and many respondents are being asked to ration supplies. 

“While we appreciate that governments across the country are working to make this a priority, what’s emerging here speaks to a state of crisis”, says Dr. Sandy Buchman, CMA president. “Asking health care workers to be on the front lines of this pandemic without the proper equipment is irresponsible and shortages must be addressed immediately. People’s lives are on the line here.”

The CMA has requested to urgently meet with Health Minister Patty Hajdu to discuss how to rapidly get more supplies to the frontline. More action is clearly needed; such as: 

• Giving health providers in the community government contact information so they can re-order PPE; 

• Better co-ordination and transparency between the federal and provincial/territorial governments to ensure supplies are making it to the frontline; and

• Ensuring hospital administrators have supply assurances from governments so they can fully deploy appropriate usage of PPE among their providers.

The CMA will continue to work closely with all key stakeholders, including the federal government as well as health care organizations, on a coordinated response to this pandemic. 

Brian Peckford is a former Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, now living in retirement on Vancouver Island.