TORONTO – Canada is donating $2.5 million worth of the specialized medical gear used to protect health-care workers who are treating Ebola patients in West Africa, the federal government announced late Monday.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose said the equipment — known as personal protective equipment or PPE — will be given to the World Health Organization to help with the Ebola response.
“We will continue to explore ways for Canada to make a meaningful contribution to the global response,” Ambrose said in a news release.
The announcement of additional Canadian assistance comes on the eve of a major address on the Ebola outbreak by U.S. President Barack Obama.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that the Obama administration is preparing to assign 3,000 U.S. military personnel to West Africa to combat the Ebola outbreak.
The troops will supply medical and logistical support and boost the number of beds needed to isolate and treat victims of the epidemic, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Obama planned to announce the stepped-up effort later Tuesday at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
The Canadian donation is being made from surplus stock current available through the Public Health Agency of Canada’s National Emergency Strategic Stockpile and Health Canada’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch.
Canada has offered a range of supplies, but said that the final donation will be based on what the WHO needs.
It has offered 500,000 N95 respirators (like surgical masks, but more protective), 1.5 million sets of examination gloves, 2.1 million face shields, 1.25 million isolation gowns, 3,500 sets of surgical gloves and 50 hooded coverall suites.
“Preventing further transmission of the Ebola virus is essential to controlling the current outbreak and the proper use of personal protective equipment is a key component,” Dr. Gregory Taylor, deputy chief public health officer, said in an emailed statement.
“By providing these much-needed supplies, the Government of Canada is enabling health-care workers from the affected region and other WHO response workers to continue to quickly detect and manage this outbreak.”
The WHO recently reported that some areas in the Ebola zone were experiencing shortages in the equipment needed to prevent caregivers from becoming infected.
Three countries are experiencing widespread Ebola transmission — Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. There has been a limited spread — so far — to Nigeria and Senegal.
Although it is cumbersome and hot, personal protective equipment is essential to protect the health-care workers treating Ebola patients.
A Canadian doctor who has worked on the Ebola response since late March said having a solid supply of PPE is vital, especially given that global supplies are becoming stretched.
“Having PPE available … is a very important potential aspect of having other foreign medical teams come onboard,” said Dr. Rob Fowler, who works at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre but who has been volunteering with the WHO for the last year.