What happened to Canada's $300,000,000 pandemic stockpile? Agency admits “failure”

Canadian medical professionals testified at a House of Commons committee that personal protective equipment, like masks, are now being rationed in hospitals as frontline workers struggle to protect themselves from the spread of the coronavirus.

The Canadian Public Health Agency, headed by Dr. Theresa Tam, was created in response to the 2003 SARS outbreak to prepare Canada for pandemic diseases and the spread of human pathogens.

Yet, in recent testimony to the House of Commons Health committee, the heads of the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Association of Emergency Room Physicians, and the Canadian Nurses Association admitted to a severe lack pandemic preparedness and supplies in the Canadian healthcare system.

From Blacklock's Reporter:

Testifying at the Commons health committee, Dr. Sandy Buchman of the Medical Association said an Association survey of 5,000 physicians conducted last week “shows a dark reality” of shortages of masks, goggles, face shields and other supplies. “Messages about the health of Canadians and the health of the economy mean nothing without an equal pillar, the health and safety of our front line workers,” said Buchman. “At this point it is of incredible urgency that we support our care providers.”

Dr. Alan Drummond of Perth, Ont., president of the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians, told that same Committee that doctors have cited “disturbing reports of insufficient quantity, rationing or uncertain availability” of supplies. “The pandemic has not yet peaked and will be with us for some time,” said Drummond.

What is happening in my hospital as an example of what is happening across the country is the preservation of personal protective equipment,” said Drummond. “Some would call it rationing. Certainly, our nurses are being told to use two surgical masks on a shift basis which can go from eight to twelve hours. That feels like rationing.”

Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Nurses Association, testified that she had heard stories of nurses being given a paper bag to put their mask to bring back from home the next day.

Auditors in a 2011 Evaluation Of The National Stockpile System specifically warned the Agency to ensure a stockpile of “pandemic preparedness supplies”.

The Public Health Agency had nine years to stock up on masks and supplies and didn't. The agency also shipped Canada's limited strategic stockpile of PPE to China in February while the federal government opted to leave Canadian borders wide open to foreign travellers from coronavirus hotspots before putting out a desperate call for procurement of masks and supplies just a few weeks later.

Now Canada's frontline workers are doing without because Dr. Theresa Tam and her agency didn't do the one job Canadians needed them to.