Federal public health authorities have allocated a shipment of 26 ventilators originally destined for Prince Edward Island to another region that has seen more hospitalizations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A ventilator helps patients with respiratory issues to breathe. The machine is a key piece of medical equipment that could be crucial for treatment of patients severely afflicted by the virus. P.E.I. currently has 19 ventilators. Supplies of the machines have been depleted throughout North America due to the growing number of severe cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) elsewhere.
"What we're understanding now is that the federal government is really prioritizing the allocation of some of those ventilators where there are significant numbers of hospitalized patients," said Health P.E.I. Chief of Nursing Marion Dowling during a media briefing Thursday.
"Thanks to our public health measures here, we have so far not seen that."
Dowling added she did not have a confirmed date on when the requested ventilators will arrive.
P.E.I. has had a total of 25 cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain), but no hospitalizations to date. No known cases of community transmission have yet been detected. Other provinces have faced higher demands due to more severe cases of the virus. Ontario has had a total of 632 hospitalized because of the virus, while Nova Scotia reported its second death due to the virus on Thursday.
The reallocated shipment of ventilators was from the national emergency strategic stockpile (NESS), a warehouse of medical equipment maintained by the Public Health Agency of Canada. P.E.I. had requested 26 last month from the stockpile, and also has made orders of 27 due through federal and provincial purchasing.
Dowling confirmed P.E.I. has received all of a requested shipment of personal protective equipment from the national emergency strategic stockpile. The shipment included 4,400 N95 masks, 10,000 surgical masks, 5,000 surgical masks with eye shields, 1,300 surgical masks for children, 30,000 face shields and 156,000 pairs of gloves.
The Province has maintained a standing order with the NESS to further personal protective equipment on a weekly basis.
Dowling said she was “feeling pretty confident” about the ability of the Island’s health facilities to handle hospitalizations at the current time due to COVID-19. Both the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and Prince County Hospital are operating at 50 per cent capacity to allow possible hospitalizations due to the virus.
On Thursday, Chief Health Officer Heather Morrison confirmed no new cases of the coronavirus on P.E.I. but said physical distancing, hand-washing and self-isolation for travellers remains critically important over the Easter weekend.
Morrison also provided further details about P.E.I.’s first case of COVID-19 related to inter-provincial travel. The individual, a man in his 50s, arrived back on P.E.I. during the “latter part of March.”
“The direction at that time, was to self-monitor and physical distance, which they did. And then once [they] developed symptoms and was tested, [they] self-isolated at that time."
"Every person that they may have had contact with, which is very limited, is being followed up and tested."
Morrison provided few details about the contact the individual may have had with others, but indicated the individual went to a relative’s house.
The direction from the Chief Public Health Office for Islanders who have travelled inter-provincially to self-isolate was issued on March 21, more than two and a half weeks ago. Prior to that, testing on P.E.I. had focused almost entirely on returning international travellers.
Morrison did not say when the individual was tested.