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Health care students in northern Ontario sourcing PPE for front-line staff

More than 100 students from northern Ontario, studying in various health care professions, are helping to make sure their counterparts on the front lines have personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect from COVID-19.

Last week, the medical, nursing and other health care students began an initiative called Northern Ontario PPE for HCP. HCP stands for health care providers. 

Similar groups have popped up elsewhere across the province, and are in collaboration with the Ontario Medical Student Association and the Ontario Medical Association. They are all working to source PPEs for doctors, nurses and other health care providers in the region,to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus.

Personal protective equipment includes N-95 masks, face shields, gowns, gloves and goggles. 

“Our campaign happens to be very different from the campaigns in southern Ontario because we are covering all of northern Ontario and not just the major cities,” Sarah Mavin said. 

She is one of the co-leads, and is also a student at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) in Sudbury.

Sarah Mavin is co-lead of Northern Ontario PPE for HCP, a group of health care students across the region, working to source personal protective equipment for front-line health care providers. She is seen in this picture with her daughter and donations to the campaign. (Supplied by Sarah Mavin)

It’s the large geography of Northern Ontario that Mavin says poses the biggest challenge for the group and its efforts to source PPE.

“The needs are so varied depending on which clinic and which community you’re in,” she said.

“Because the PPE is being pushed to these bigger centres and screening [assessment centres] to places where health care providers really need that protection, some other smaller places are lacking in basic stuff that we can help source from.”

​​​​​Mavin says they’re working in collaboration with hospitals in urban centres, which are conducting their own respective fundraisers for PPE.

But Mavin and her crew want to fill the gaps, where specific PPE may be needed, specifically in smaller communities. 

“When we saw that some of those smaller communities and hospitals weren’t able to run drives to source personal protective equipment we stepped in and thought you know, I think there’s a place that we can help here,” she said.

“So that’s kind of the role that we’re trying to take.”

Mavin says no donation is too small and uses the example of an individual or business donating a box of latex gloves from their house.

“We are sourcing from anywhere and everywhere across Northern Ontario, no matter how big or small your donation is,” she said.

Northern PPE for HCP is also collecting monetary donations. 

That money will help pay for shipment of PPE donations from one part of the region to another. Donations can be made through the group’s GoFundMe page.

Another aspect of Northern Ontario PPE for HCP is manufacturing face shields. Mavin says some of the monetary donations will help purchase materials to manufacture face shields using laser 3D printers. 

There’s a lot of northern Ontario pride and wanting to care for the health care workers that are looking after us all.– Sarah Mavin, co-lead for Northern Ontario PPE for HCP

The group has a needs assessment form on its website and Facebook page. 

Mavin explains that a hospital or clinic in northern Ontario can fill out the form on what protective equipment it needs. The sourcing group then tries to fill that need with any donations that may have come in.

“If we can’t do that, we look at sourcing across a broader northern Ontario, and even if we can’t source from there, we have our contacts through the Ontario Medical Association who will help us source from southern Ontario, as well,” she said.

The group has already had plenty of needs assessment requests come in, almost daily, since they began the effort a week ago.

“We’re all from the north, and we’re doing it for the north,” Mavin said.

“There’s a lot of northern Ontario pride and wanting to care for the health care workers that are looking after us all.”

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