It’s 'All for One' as Ottawa hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge

Posted on Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A mountain of boxes of supplies and equipment.

By Jessica Sinclair, Research Writer

On Tuesday, March 31, workers loaded 252 large boxes onto a truck from the Faculty of Medicine’s Roger Guindon Hall loading docks. Inside were more than 263,000 gloves; more than 25,000 facemasks; 2,119 N-95 respirators; and an abundance of boot/shoe covers, protective clothing, hand sanitizers, safety goggles, disinfecting wipes, sterile cotton-tipped applicators, and protective clothing.

The equipment is destined for Ottawa-area hospitals bracing for an expected surge of COVID-19 patients. It’s been donated by several uOttawa faculties — including the Faculties of Medicine, Health Sciences, Engineering and Science — and by the wider Ottawa community. The multi-pronged effort is part of a larger network response by affiliated hospitals and is coordinated by the Faculty of Medicine’s Director of Strategic Planning and Implementation, Gillian Lord, along with Vice-Dean of Faculty Affairs and Hospital liaison, Dr. Sharon Whiting.

“The work by Gillian Lord and the tech team from the University of Ottawa, working with the medical students as well as leads from all the labs, was exceptional,” says Dr. Sharon Whiting. “The hospitals are very grateful for these supplies as they will be delivered regionally. The Faculty of Medicine has always had an excellent relationship with our affiliated hospitals, and we were honoured to do this work.”

The rapid escalation of Ottawa’s coronavirus response this month resulted in the community offering donations of personal protective equipment for frontline health workers.

Many of the items overlap with what uOttawa labs use every day in their research and with what fills store cupboards elsewhere in the city. In response to the appeal, researchers and others scoured their supply closets to see what they could spare.

The Faculty of Health Sciences contributed supplies and two teaching ventilators. Their nursing program at La Cité collégiale donated four ventilators and the Algonquin campuses joined the effort.

Gillian Lord stands beside a mountain of donated medical supplies.

Gillian Lord, Director of Strategic Planning and Implementation, Faculty of Medicine, stands beside a mountain of donated medical supplies.

Donations were collected, inventoried and packaged by the Common Equipment and Technical Services team and others who remain on campus, working above and beyond the call of duty. Medical student volunteers picked up donations from all across the city to add to the pile.

“We had over 110 small businesses and 70 organizations that donated. We had around 5-10 drivers picking things up and other people emailing and calling businesses,” says Jon Whelan of MD class of 2021. “We emailed and called about 1,000 small businesses. Nail salons, tattoo parlours, dental clinics, veterinary clinics, massage therapy, acupuncture, physiotherapy, labs, museums and archives. This week, we are going to reach out to electricians, food packaging companies and home renovation companies.”

In the medium term, larger orders are being negotiated by provincial governments and federal departments such as Public Services and Procurement Canada. Supplies and equipment are particularly likely to come from China, where production of these items scaled up during its crisis period, and where factories now have extra production capacity. In the meantime, local initiatives are springing up in many places across Canada.

“The donations of PPE keep coming in and the emails of support as well,” says Gillian Lord. “Our motivation is driven by the courage of the frontline healthcare providers, their extraordinary work and care for our community. They deserve a special thank you from us all.”

If you have supplies or equipment to contribute, please contact COVIDdonations@toh.ca.

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