On March 11th, 2020 the World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19 as we now know it, a global pandemic and urged governments around the world to take action to limit the spread of the virus. At the time there were just over 118,000 confirmed cases worldwide, with the vast majority of new cases seen in several European countries. A few days later Canada started to see cases emerging in greater numbers and set in motion a series of measures to stem the tide of the epidemic with healthcare facilities initiating their emergency response centers in preparation for a potential wave of infected patients seeking medical care. As I write this just 4 weeks later, the total number of COVID-19 cases has reached over 1.4 million globally, while Canada alone sits at 18,000.
During the past 4 weeks we have seen a myriad of changes in our lives due to COVID-19; the way we shop, the way we travel, the way we interact with one another, and even the way we work. Most of the healthcare facilities have shifted to essential service levels and the redeployment of staff. MDR Technicians continue to play a critical role in the operation of our hospitals, by not only maintaining the regular supply of instrumentation to the Operating Rooms, wards and clinics, but also facing new challenges as hospitals learn to cope with the daily changes imposed upon them by this pandemic. With PPE reaching critical levels at many sites due to an exponential increase in demand coupled by a worldwide shortage in supplies, hospitals are turning to MDRDs to work with Infection Prevention and Control, Risk Management and the device manufacturers for solutions. One such initiative at Vancouver General Hospital is the sterilization of used N95 respirators using a validated Hydrogen Peroxide Vapor & Plasma process with FDA and pending Health Canada approval. The BC Provincial Government has implemented this process to provide a stockpile of sterilized N95 respirators only to be used if the supply of new N95 respirators runs out. Other examples of MDRD supporting the hospital during these unprecedented times include washing protective eyewear, washing and disinfecting elastomeric respirators and assisting other departments in the delivery of critical supplies.
Playing an equally important role is our vendor community, with companies challenged by the impacts of the pandemic doing their utmost to supply our healthcare systems with the crucial equipment and supplies necessary to fight COVID-19. These partners have provided support in offering potential alternatives to many of the items that have become increasingly difficult to source, and by working with us to overcome obstacles in our supply chain through expedited procurement processes and an equitable supply management system.
While we continue to navigate through these uncharted waters, we are encouraged by the trends of those countries that are showing signs of recovery, and look forward to seeing our lives returning to normal soon. During this time CAMDR will continue to monitor the situation and will keep you informed of any changes to our upcoming conference in Edmonton which is still scheduled for Oct 15-18, 2020. We appreciate that these are difficult times as we worry for the health and safety of our families and friends while fighting the pandemic side-by-side with our fellow frontline healthcare workers. We encourage you to support each other, and to reach out to your CAMDR leadership should you have any questions. Stay positive, find time to enjoy life and be safe. Although the current restrictions on our lives may be challenging, I am confident we will get through this, together.