Group trying to create community resource for personal protective equipment

Personal protective equipment is becoming a part of daily life and there’s an effort in the Region of Waterloo to create a reliable and more cost-effective supply for organizations, businesses and other community groups.

Workers with the Sanguen Mobile Health Clinic say every day they go through multiple masks and countless pairs of gloves.

“It’s so important to protect us as healthcare workers, but also protect the clients we see as well,” says nurse Kathy McKenna.

Whenever they bring a patient on board their bus they have to put on full PPE.

“We’ve been really lucky and right from the beginning people have dropped stuff off,” says nurse practitioner Garilynn Duenk. “I don’t know how we would have done this otherwise.”

But there’s a new effort to ensure a long-term, stable and cost-effective resource for the community.

“As the supply chain continues to get stressed, these smaller groups are having a really difficult time finding access to PPE,” says Amber French of the Community PPE Co-operative.

Since many PPE producers require larger orders, French wants to make a list of what the community needs, then place a bulk order and distribute the products as they are needed.

“This model just makes sense,” she says. “By leveraging the law of numbers, we can place some great orders for PPE and be able to provide for anyone as small as a single doctor’s office, all the way up to regional agencies like Universities and school boards. Then everybody benefits from access and better pricing.”

Gloria Jordan is a consultant with Inner City Health Alliance, which represents six agencies including Sanguen.

“Having that buying power of many organizations coming together is going to make a difference,” she says. “For us it has been so important to continue service for those who are most in need.”

The Community PPE Co-operative has already received support from the Region of Waterloo, which has provided $50,000 to help with startup costs.

They say 35 agencies will benefit from the PPE orders.

The collective has also invested in a way to get the most use out of the equipment.

“We were able to get our hands on a machine that will be able to sterilize up to 20,000 N95 masks every day, so it’s going a really long way in preserving the PPE that’s in our community,” says French.

The Community PPE Co-operative is hoping to be fully operational by the end of June.

Any groups interested in being part of the collective can go to the PPE Access website.