Donations are pouring in, including from overseas, after the organization representing primary care providers in the South Okanagan issued a public appeal for personal protective equipment (PPE).

The medical supplies offer critical protection for frontline healthcare workers responding to the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak, and PPE is in short supply due to global demand.

Graham Setters is a Penticton native who now runs an international school in China.

He worked with students and staff at the Sino-Canada high school, a private boarding school near Shanghai, to collect and donate 200 N95 medical masks to South Okanagan doctors.

His father, Bob Setters, had the medical masks shipped to his home in Okanagan Falls and arranged for pick-up.

“They came up with the idea, this student group which is called Syno business, and it’s run by the school, and they decided ‘Hey, we will put a package of masks together and send them to Canada’ as a friendly gesture,” he told Global New on Wednesday.

Dr. Tim Phillips, physician lead for the PPE working group at the South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice, said the organization has been overwhelmed by the community support.

“It has been great,” he said.

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“We’ve had a number of boxes of gloves, a number of the businesses that would usually use procedural masks, whether they are nail salons or dentists offices, had reached out and certainly when their work environment changed and they weren’t needing it and saw the need within the community, stepped forward and donated those.”

As for the donation of N95 masks, Phillips says they will be distributed to doctors and nurse practitioners working at the outdoor assessment centre and COVID-19 test site set up at McLaren Arena in Penticton.

“I think it’s incredible. I think it shows the way that the world has kind of rallied around a response to COVID-19 and the need and ability for us to be able to work together,” he said.

Phillips added that sought-after supplies of PPE are being distributed to highest-risk environments first, such as hospital emergency departments and intensive care units.

Those in community medicine have had to get creative to protect themselves and their patients from the infectious disease.

“One of the things that’s allowed us to try and help with that and minimize that risk is the fact that very early on, we all went largely virtual,” Phillips said.

“So we started to do things as much as we could through either video links or through telephone.”

“As well, there has been efforts to streamline how things get done and who sees people. The assessment clinic is a part of that, trying to find a way to set up so that the fewest number of providers, whether they are nurses, nurse practitioners or physicians, are using gear in any given day.”

Phillips said primary care providers continue to require PPE and donations can be arranged by emailing [email protected]

“The pandemic isn’t anywhere close to being over,” he said, “right until we get to a point where we have a vaccine, and we know that people are protected, there is going to be a potential risk.”

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