Canadian physicians remain concerned about PPE supplies and COVID-19 testing: survey

Meanwhile, B.C.'s Health Minister has reported that the province has received more supplies from vendors and donors

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      A recent national survey has found that the vast majority of responding Canadian physicians remain worried about the levels of COVID-19 testing and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE).

      Physician pandemic concerns

      On April 28, the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) released the results of a survey of almost 2,500 physicians conducted on April 20 and 21 as a followup to a previous poll conducted of 5,000 physicians in late March.

      The recent poll found that approximately half of the respondents felt that their concerns could be reduced by increases or improvements in availability of medication (54 percent), virtual care options (53 percent), and peer support (49 percent).

      The survey also revealed that 84 percent of physicians feel that more COVID-19 testing would help reduce their anxieties and almost 90 percent felt more availability of PPE would help to reduce their concerns.

      About one-third of physicians in community practices responded that they only had two days or less of key PPE (including eye or faceshields, respirators, gowns, or goggles or glasses) or had already run out.

      The percentage remains the same as the results found from the late March poll, which also found that over two-thirds of physicians in community care had tried to order supplies but less than 15 percent received confirmation that the supplies were being sent or had been received.

      Where physicians expressed variation in responses in the recent poill was whether or not they’ve seen PPE supply amounts improve in recent weeks.

      While 29 percent said that supplies had worsened, the same amount felt they had improved. Meanwhile, 42 percent reported not seeing any change.

      “The anxiety experienced by health care providers is compounded by a lack of information and assurance that everything possible is being done to protect them and understand the spread of the virus among Canadians,” CMA president stated in a news release. “We know that governments are working hard to improve the availability of personal protective equipment, but physicians continue to be gravely concerned about their ability to provide care safely.”

      The CMA is requesting to meet with federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu about improving supplies reaching frontline workers, including more organizations and transparency between federal and provincial governments and governments providing assurances to hospital administrators of supplies.

      B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix
      Province of British Columbia

      PPE in British Columbia

      In B.C.’s daily COVID-19 update on April 9, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix explained that obtaining PPE for the medical system is not simply a matter of purchasing and distributing the items.

      Dr. Henry said that they have specific requirements for the type of N95 mask that they need. In addition, Dix talked about how they have to inspect and test all PPE before distributing it in order to avoid problems and risks that have been experienced in some jurisdictions.

      For example, on April 7 the City of Toronto had to recall about $200,000 worth of defective face masks that were sent to longterm care homes, including one with a COVID-19 outbreak.

      On April 24, Global News reported that Chinese suppliers had to replace one million defective masks and contaminated testing swabs sold to the Canadian government. 

      Although Canada has received several planeloads full of PPE, the Public Health Agency of Canada has to certify that the equipment meets Canadian standards.

      During the daily B.C. COVID-19 update on April 21, Dix said that they had received three million N95 masks, three-quarters of a million KN95 masks, and other supplies

      During the April 28 daily update, Dix said that since that time, B.C. has received more PPE from suppliers and donors, including over 170,000 N95 respirators; over 350,000 pieces of eye protection, including face shields and goggles; over 100,000 surgical masks; over 185,000 gowns; and almost five million pairs of gloves.

      Dix said that since that since the start of the pandemic, B.C. has not had to resort to using any alternate N95 respirators in the healthcare system.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at @cinecraig or on Facebook.

      For those concerned about visiting a doctor's office because of the pandemic, a telehealth provider can put them in contact with physicians and other health-care professionals.