OTTAWA – A group of Canadian companies promise to deliver up to 30,000 ventilators to the federal government within the next few weeks, though Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hopes we won’t need them all.
“As countries around the world grapple with this pandemic, the demand for critical supplies like test kits, ventilators and personal protection equipment is going up to keep our frontline workers safe and care for Canadians with COVID-19. We need a stable supply of these products and that means making them at home,” Trudeau said during his daily press conference on Tuesday.
Thornhill Medical, CAE, Ventilators for Canadians and a group led by Starfish Medical are the companies who have committed to producing the 30,000 new “made-in-Canada” ventilators. The first devices should arrive within the next few weeks, with the entirety of the order coming in over the course of a few months.
These are in addition to the 10,500 devices that have already been ordered from an Ontario company in the last weeks.
Is ordering 30,000 ventilators a window into the scope of the expected flood of COVID-19 patients into the nation’s hospitals, considering that there are only roughly 5,000 throughout the country?
Not necessarily, but the country is preparing for the worst-case scenario, the prime minister said.
“We need to be ready for any circumstances and every circumstances. And the opportunity to make sure that we have ventilators available if we need them is going to be extremely important,” said Trudeau.
“We certainly hope that we won’t be needing all these ventilators.”
If any of those ventilators don’t end up service here in Canada, then the government will look to ship them to any other country that is in dire need of the medical device.
Whether they would be donated or sold to them was unclear.
“We also know that there are countries around the world where they are not able to tool up local production to create more ventilators. They’re going to be reliant on a global supply that’s already stretched thin,” Trudeau said.
“And if we end up making more ventilators than Canada (needs) that’ll be great news and we will have ventilators to share with other countries that are facing more difficult circumstances.”
Ventilators aren’t the only medical stock being produced by non-traditional manufacturers. Trudeau says nearly 5,000 Canadian companies have responded to the government’s call to retool in order to produce
He cited car part manufacturer Autoliv that will start producing medical gowns out of material typically used to create airbags, whereas clothing companies such as Canada Goose and Arc’teryx are also retooling to produce various medical garbs.
“The material for gowns has traditionally not been produced domestically so we needed to find a made in Canada solution to secure our domestic production capacity and keep our frontline care workers safe,” Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains said on Tuesday.
If Canada is pivoting towards its local manufacturers to produce the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s because buying it on the international market is becoming increasingly difficult and chaotic.
“It’s buy, buy, buy, build, build, build,” Bains said.
The day before, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland described the international market as a “Wild West”.
On Tuesday, Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand gave more detailed explanation of what Canada has to do in order to secure any shipment of masks, ventilators or medical garments manufactured in China.
“Ordering does not guarantee delivery. Ordering means that we have placed an order and contract for products that we need to make sure find their way back to Canada,” the minister said.
“For example, in China, we have engaged our embassy on the ground to ensure that our orders are delivered on schedule. Those parties are also identifying new opportunities for us. We are also engaging directly with manufacturers on the ground in China,” Anand continued.
“We are also engaged with private firms who are assisting us with quality assurance, opportunities, in-country logistics, arranging transportation and assisting us in leasing a warehouse in Shanghai that can store goods once they are sourced and ready to export,” said Anand.
“Finally, we are arranging our own transportation from Canada. You can see that these supply chains are complex, but we are taking every effort to make sure that we get those goods back to Canada and into the hands of our frontline workers.”
That work led to the delivery of eight million surgical masks from China this week, bringing the total received since the beginning of the pandemic to 16 million (out of 230 million ordered).
The government has also ordered 75 million N95 masks, of which 2.3 million are expected to arrive by the end of the week, and 113,000 litres of hand sanitizer.
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