THE Province announced on Thursday that it is further protecting health-care workers, patients, families and frontline workers during COVID-19 with Western Canada’s first accredited personal protective equipment (PPE) lab, specializing in testing and validating PPE.
The lab is a pandemic-driven innovation by Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), with support from the Ministry of Health and the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA).
“The safety of our health-care and frontline workers continues to be a top priority as we prepare our health-care system and our province for long-term management of COVID-19,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “This collaborative effort demonstrates B.C.’s leadership in innovative solutions in the face of challenges brought on by the pandemic, and dedication to staff and patient safety.”
PPE, which includes medical gloves, gowns, surgical masks and N95 respirators, works as a barrier between an individual’s skin, mouth, nose, or eyes and viral and bacterial infections. When used properly and with other infection-control practices, such as hand washing, PPE minimizes the spread of infection from one person to another.
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an immediate increased demand for PPE around the world and it severely disrupted global supply chains. VCH recognized the need for a local lab that could quickly test and validate the effectiveness of PPE to provide assurance to health-care workers and patients in the province.
“Mobilizing a multidisciplinary team across several organizations to establish a PPE testing laboratory in a short few months is no small feat, especially during a global pandemic,” said Vivian Eliopoulos, president and CEO, Vancouver Coastal Health. “This initiative truly speaks to the VCH team’s commitment to innovation and dedication to providing safe, quality care to staff and patients. These tests are now available to any organization looking to test the safety and efficacy of PPE.”
The scope of the lab has expanded since it opened last year. The PPE testing lab now offers seven tests, including tests for gowns (such as fluid resistance and hydrostatic pressure) and surgical masks (such as flammability and synthetic blood resistance) and is now available to any Canadian organization.
VCH’s PPE testing laboratory was completed in June 2020 and accredited in October 2020. Initially, the lab’s mandate was to ensure the safety of health-care workers and patients by providing testing for priority pieces of PPE, such as N95 respirators.
VCH’s PPE testing laboratory team continues to work closely with PHSA supply chain to ensure the supply of PPE obtained from new local, national and international suppliers meets all Health Canada and WorkSafeBC regulatory requirements as well as certification requirements for the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
Located on the Vancouver General Hospital campus, the PPE testing laboratory was established by a multi-disciplinary team led by Vancouver Coastal Health and supported by Public Health Agency of Canada, National Research Council Canada, Standards Council of Canada, B.C.’s Ministry of Health, University of British Columbia, Provincial Health Services Authority and Providence Health Care.
Additional funding for the lab has been provided by VGH and UBC Hospital Foundation, Lions Gate Hospital Foundation and with the support of the Chan Better World Foundation, Teck Resources Limited, and Patricia and Kevin Huscroft.