In Surrey, SafeCare BC’s Russ Davies with boxes and bins of personal protective equipment (PPE) donated to the organization’s Operation Protect drive. (submitted photo)

Thousands of ‘PPE’ donated in Surrey, where one care home is ‘preparing for the worst’

SafeCare BC’s Operation Protect drive involves drop-off dates in Guildford

** This story has been updated

A mobile drop-off site in Surrey has collected thousands of donated masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer and other items in the fight against COVID-19.

Such PPE, or personal protective equipment, is sought by SafeCare BC for its Operation Protect initiative, launched in late March as a way of “helping health care workers help us.”

Unused and unopened PPE can be dropped off in Vancouver and, in Surrey, in a parking lot at Guildford Town Centre at an arranged time. First, donors are encouraged to fill out a form on the website, safecarebc.ca/operationprotect, or call 1-877-955-6565.

“After people do that, we let them know when and where they can drop off the donated items,” said Ken Donohue, communications director for SafeCare BC. “We’re at Guildford a couple of times a week, we have a truck there and a staff member for that collection. They don’t even have to get out of their car.”

As of Tuesday (April 14), more than 402,000 items have been donated to the cause, from nearly 404 donors, both individuals and businesses.

The donated items are trucked to a City of Surrey lot for storage in a BigSteelBox, and driven from there to a provincial warehouse in Langley for distribution to health care workers across B.C.

“We will also pick up donated items,” Donohue noted. “Some of the donations are small. Like, yesterday from somebody in Surrey I picked up a box of gloves, and that’s their contribution, and it’s great, and we’re also getting some huge donations from people and businesses, so every little bit helps. It’s so heartening to see this level of support, and it’s needed, it really is.”

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At a recent drop-off in Guildford, Shenzhen United Association of Vancouver presented a cheque for $6,400 to SafeCare BC, the health and safety association for B.C.’s continuing care sector, whose 864 member organizations employ 28,000 workers.

Established in 2013, the organization is an industry-funded, non-profit association “working to ensure injury free, safe working conditions for continuing care workers in B.C.,” according to a post at safecarebc.ca.

Some of the donated PPE has ended up at Surrey’s Kinsmen Lodge, a care home located a block north of Surrey Memorial Hospital. “I’m so grateful for that, and also to Fraser Health for stepping up,” director of care Marina Young said Tuesday (April 14).

“We are not running short of supplies, but we’re preparing for the worst, especially if we have to add additional precautions if we have a positive case,” Young said in an earlier interview. “Everything changes every day, and we just don’t know how long this is going to last. We have 157 vulnerable elders who live in our home. We have a lot of staff that go through here daily, and we want them to be safe as well, in a safe work environment.”

Young said she’s concerned about “insane” pricing of some PPE supplies at the moment.

“For alcohol hand sanitizer, I have seen $26 for one bottle of 500ml – that’s triple what it typically sells for,” Young said. “That’s not from our usual supplier, but we are looking around at others, everywhere, and there are crazy markups. If this keeps going, we won’t have any additional money to buy other things we need.”

Donohue said he’s aware of some price hikes for PPE.

“We’ve seen that, where the regular price for one mask is 11 cents and some are now charging $1.50 a mask, that kind of thing,” Donohue said. “That’s happening, and there are supply shortages, so that increases the demand. If you look at a lot of care homes run by non-profit organizations, like Kinsmen Lodge, not a lot of them are flush with money. It’s a challenge, and when they’re faced with having to pay more for product, it’s not easy for them.”

SafeCare BC staff member Russ Davies said along with PPE donations he picks up from Surrey and Vancouver sites, notes of thanks are sent to health care workers.

South Surrey resident Alan Jin donated 80 of the N95 masks he bought a couple months ago, and sent along a special note from his daughters, Grace and Nichole.

“Dear doctors, how are you?” their card reads. “Don’t give up trying to find a cure for COVID-19. I hope you find a cure soon. I also hope that you are safe, too!”

Said Jin: “I was happy to see SafeCare BC have this kind of platform, to be helpful.”



tom.zillich@surreynowleader.com

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