We All Want To Re-Open The Economy–But Where Will All The PPE Come From?
Up until about a month ago, Canadians were worried their health care workers would not have enough Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to treat the sickwhile protecting themselves. Thankfully, the Federal and Provincial governments seem to have addressed most of the shortages at this point.Now we have a different PPE problem, although it is a welcome problem to have. Provincial governments are getting ready to let non-essential businesses open and everyone cannot wait – we are scratching at the door to get out of the house.However, all the businesses waiting to reopen are going to need to ensure their employees have a safe working environment.This will mean having the appropriate PPE on hand to give to the employees.Many businesses have also said they plan on making some kind of PPE available to their customers, hoping consumers will return sooner if they feel safer.
Items such as masks, gloves and hand sanitizer will be in huge demand.At the moment, we don’t really know where the required PPE will come from and how it will be sourced in time. For example, we run non-essential health care clinics, when we reopen not only will we provide our staff with masks, gloves and hand sanitizer (which we always did) but now we will also need to provide it to our clients.We estimate a 10 fold increase in PPE needs per day.We are lucky, part of our business is importing medical supplies from overseas, so we have direct access to the only market in the world able to make enough PPE to go around – China.Most businesses do not have this advantage and will be challenged to get their handson the PPE that will become vital to their operations.
Businesses also need to understand the difference between the PPE they need and the PPE our healthcare workers use – they are not the same thing.We need businesses to source PPE meant for ‘civil’ use – it is certified differently and, thankfully, less expensive. The public does not need to buy and use ‘medical grade’ PPE.In fact, we don’t want them to, ‘medical grade’ PPE inventory needs to stay accessible forhealthcare workers.Remember, ‘flattening the curve’ doesnot mean less people will get sick, it means the number of people sick at one time is kept within the capacity of our health care system.Health care workers will continue to experience an increased need for ‘medical grade’ PPE, for the foreseeable future.‘Civil’ use PPE is all the public needs.
Disposable 3 Ply masks with ear loops and gloves can be ‘civil’ or ‘medical’ grade.Hand sanitizer can be either but as long as it is 60% alcohol or more, it is good for public use.So how much of this equipment will businesses need?
Let’s use Cineplex as an example to estimate how many masks might be needed to support their operations, once they are allowed to reopen.
- 164 locations with an average of 10 screens per location
- Each screen has an estimated 200 seats
- Each screen will show movies4 times per day, on average
- Movies are likely to be less busy,we will use35% of capacity to start
- Each day, an average Cineplex location will have 35 staffers working
- Staffers will likely be mandated to wear masks throughout their shift
- Not all customers will choose to buy &wear their own mask but many will, let’s use 50%
For Cineplex to operate, at a significantly reduced rate, almost 240,000 ‘civil’ use masks will be needed PER DAY.Over 6 months – 44 million masks. At the moment, the retail price of a ‘civil’ use mask in Canada is over $1.Walmart is selling a box of 50 for $59.99 plus tax, online.Shipping is 1 month out.Where will all these masks come from? The situation is the same for gloves and sanitizer.
Chinese mask manufacturers have taken enough orders to keep themselves busy well into the summer; some quoting July delivery from the factory and prices keep escalating.Most now have a minimum order quantity of 500,000 pieces at a time. For Canadian businesses to have what they need on hand to restart operations, they need to act now.
In addition, we need to share within our networks when we find a good source of reasonably priced ‘civil’ masks.Unfortunately, because of the price hikes from manufacturers and the incredible increase in the cost of shipping – $1 per mask is a very reasonable cost,at the moment. If you find a good source for PPE, share it as widely as you can.Our economy may depend on the availability of these items.
We (Oakwood Health) are importing as much as we can each month but sources are getting very thin and with Europe and the US beginning to open up as well, competition for ‘civil’ PPE will get more intense and prices will keep going up. Act soon and spread the word. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit us at oakwoodhealth.com/ppe to check with us about availability from our inventory.