What Happened to PPE Production in Canada?

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2201 ... September 25, 2020

What Happened to PPE Production in Canada?:
Joint Statement on Domestic Production of N95 Respirators

CFNU, OCHU/CUPE and Green Jobs Oshawa

On August 21 the federal and Ontario governments announced major subsidies for 3M Canada to expand its Brockville plant, and starting in early 2021, to produce 50 million N95 respirators each year for five years. This is an important step toward addressing the existing shortage of this much needed personal protective equipment (PPE). It is also an important step, in the face of global supply chain uncertainties, to create the needed capacity to produce them in Canada. However, it is not enough to remedy the current deficiencies in the supply chain and PPE policy requirements.

First, why will it have taken a full year from the time that news of a new virus first emerged at the end of 2019 to the launching of the Brockville production? After the SARS crisis in 2003, a Royal Commission made recommendations -- called for by healthcare workers and their unions -- to respond properly to the... next epidemic, including by always deferring to the precautionary principle in dealing with health and safety risks to staff and the people they care for; by stockpiling N95 respirators and by reducing the percentage of part-time healthcare staff. In fact, during the COVID-19 crisis the precautionary principle was ignored, and the stockpile of masks expired. The percentage of part-time staff grew significantly during the period from 2003-2019 as healthcare budgets staggered to balance real cuts and surging population growth and aging. This contributed significantly to the unpreparedness this time.

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