The City of Edmonton has spent $2 million so far to secure personal protective equipment for essential and front-line workers, city councillors were told Wednesday.
Roxanne Kits, branch manager of corporate procurement and supply services, told council the city is getting PPE in bulk from local businesses.
“Our local supplier community has been extremely responsive and helpful, and is working to support expediting the materials required for the city’s use,” Kits said.
The equipment will be distributed to city departments and Edmonton police and kept in secure locations with strict control on who can access it, she noted.
The city received 200,000 surgical masks from the province on Wednesday. Those will go to internal city staff and workers at EXPO.
Kits said the city is consistently checking with local suppliers to identify potential disruptions.
“Our top 20 inventory material suppliers have not recorded any issues in the delivery of supplies but we remain connected with them to ensure we mitigate any potential disruptions.”
Buyers have also put in orders with the federal government for hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, N95 masks, and other cleaning supplies, she said.
However, certain items are harder to secure if local manufacturers are beholden to overseas suppliers.
“Things like masks — the local market cannot manufacture the volume that we’re going to require over the next six to nine months,” Kits said.
Kits noted that local distributors are looking to markets in Asia and Eastern Europe.
“It’s a little bit of the wild west — the price can triple in a day for masks,” she said.
Canada’s PPE manufacturing capacity is limited and getting shipments in from the U.S. is a challenge, she said.
Working with the province ‘has been slow’
During Wednesday’s meeting, Coun. Tony Caterina questioned the province’s role in helping municipalities with supplies.
“Are we competing along with the province and everybody else trying to procure for our own?” he asked.
The city is expected to source its own supplies, Kits said, but can access the province’s stockpile to supplement its inventory.
“If we need the masks and they’re sending millions to Ontario, do you think a couple hundred thousand might be available for Edmonton?” Caterina asked.
“We are daily calling the Provincial Operations Centre looking for material,” Kits said. “It has been slow.”
Kits said the city is in touch with the federal government and Alberta Health Services.
“I think they’re a little overwhelmed at this point, so they’re trying to figure out how best to distribute.”
The same day, the province sent out a news release outlining its efforts to distribute PPE to health-care workers and non-Alberta Health Service facilities, including optometrist offices, funeral homes, pharmacies and disability service providers.
AHS, Covenant Health and subsidiary facilities have received more than four million masks, the province said. It has also distributed one million gloves to midwives, pediatricians, gynecologists and obstetricians, the release said.
Overall, Kits said Edmonton has a stable supply for now but the city will continue to monitor the situation.