Karen Fung-Harris, a dentist and co-owner of two practices in Ottawa, is shown in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Somer Taylor

VIDEO: Dentists worried about shortage of masks amid coronavirus outbreak

Feds: ‘There are a lot of people wearing masks who don’t need to wear masks’

The Ontario Ministry of Health says it’s working with manufacturers of medical masks to address shortage concerns expressed by dentists in light of the new coronavirus outbreak, according to a memo sent to the provincial regulator.

In the note sent to the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario last week, the ministry said it’s aware some orders of personal protective equipment, which dentists need to wear during any routine dental procedure, are backlogged, but added it was “following up to make sure critical shortages are addressed.”

The ministry said Thursday in a statement that it is working with the health sector and has “developed systems to identify organizations who are having challenges getting the supplies they need, and have processes in place to ensure that providers are able care for their patients safely now and in the future.”

Fear surrounding a new type of coronavirus dubbed COVID-19 that’s rapidly spreading in China has prompted a rush from the public to stockpile the protective gear, despite advice from Canadian health authorities that they are not effective for healthy people.

“There are a lot of people wearing masks who don’t need to wear masks,” federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in a press conference earlier this week, adding the government was tracking the situation.

“Canada does have a stockpile (of masks) for domestic use and we have enough supply as we understand the outbreak right now,” she said. “There are some rumblings around a supply chain shortage and we’re monitoring that very carefully.”

The Canadian Dental Association has contacted distributors of masks, gloves and other protective equipment because of concerns raised by dentists across the country, said Aaron Burry, its associate director of professional affairs.

He said suppliers are being “cautious” and “putting measures in place” to control the availability of these products and to prevent stockpiling.

“No one can predict where things may go but to our understanding the supply is sufficient for the next few months,” said Burry.

But he acknowledged he has heard about some supply problems and says he has been told that boxes of masks have been stolen from dental waiting rooms.

Karen Fung-Harris, a dentist and co-owner of two practices in Ottawa, said she has had to change suppliers and her costs have gone up.

“Our biggest worry as dentists is that we can’t practice without (masks)…and we know there is a shortage.”

Fung-Harris says that her usual supplier is out of masks and that although she can still buy small quantities from other suppliers, the price has jumped. She says she normally pays $7 to $9 for a box of 50 masks but because of the shortage she is now ordering different brands, in smaller quantities, from a variety of suppliers and is having to pay $16 to $18 per box.

READ MORE: Fear, boredom and adventure on cruise ship quarantined in Japan

At her offices, staff use between 75 to 125 masks a day, so the change in cost is not trivial, but her main concern is supply.

“We don’t know when we’re going to run out and not be able to stock them again,” she said.

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dozens brave cold for third annual Polar Bear Plunge for Special Olympics

Organizers have raised more than $40,000 as of Feb. 16

HarbourCats team up with Bastion Books to bring back Harvey’s Reading Club

HarbourCats and Bastions Books offer students free game tickets in an effort to promote child literacy

Central Saanich newspaper carrier gets letter of thanks, chocolates from her community for note

Ava Verscheure started her first very job by introducing herself to residents along newspaper route

UPDATE: Power restored to more than 1,500 Sidney residents Sunday morning

BC Hydro customers without power for three hours on Feb. 16

Habitat for Humanity seeks applicants for 11 new homes on the Saanich Peninsula

Successful applicants will help build their new homes and receive an affordable mortgage

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Murder of sex worker exposes Canada’s hypocrisy on prostitution: advocate

A 2014 law made purchasing sex or benefiting from the selling of sex illegal

Wet’suwet’en return to northern B.C. forest road pipeline workers move through: First Nation

Opponents of a pipeline who support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have reoccupied camps at centre of arrests

Over a dozen birds found mysteriously dead on rural B.C road

Ministry of Agriculture notified of the strange occurrence on No. 4 Road in Abbotsford

B.C. men arrested after theft of heavy equipment leads to highway blockade

One man surrendered to police while the other was taken into custody the next morning, RCMP say

Most Read