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Lakehead Orillia helps collect PPE in fight against COVID-19

The personal protective equipment will be delivered to healthcare workers in Thunder Bay, throughout Northern Ontario, and in Orillia

Representatives from Lakehead University and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM) have collected hundreds of boxes of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care providers in Thunder Bay, throughout Northern Ontario, and Orillia – to help alleviate a shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At Lakehead University the collection began when researchers started asking Anne Klymenko, Director of the Office of Research Services, where they could drop-off essential PPE for the hospital.   

With the help of Office of Research Services volunteers, Klymenko coordinated the collection of PPE on-campus.  

She was eventually connected with Phillip Thompson, Regional Manager, Distribution and Data Management, Procurement Department at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, St. Joseph’s Hospital and the Northern Supply Chain, who work together to ensure essential PPE is distributed to hospitals and clinics where supplies are needed most.   

After hearing the need, Lakehead University’s Office of Research Services issued a call to action to all university and NOSM researchers and laboratories requesting essential PPE, a collection that was also started at Lakehead Orillia.  

Klymenko said the response from the university community was overwhelming and heartwarming.  

“We were able to collect over 820 N95 masks that are in extremely short supply right now and essential to the safety of frontline healthcare workers and clinicians,” she said.  

“We also received more than 1750 surgical, procedural masks and disposable face shields, 325 disposable gowns, and sanitizer.  All this was collected on short notice on March 27 and March 30.”  

In addition to NOSM, donations were received from all over campus – including departments in the Faculty of Natural Resources Management, Faculty of Science and Environmental Studies, and the Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences.  

All items will go to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Care Group who work with the Northern Supply Chain to ensure these essential PPE get sent to those acute-care hospitals, long-term care homes, and healthcare providers experiencing urgent shortages of PPE.  

“Supplies are vital to our Hospital's response to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Dr. Stewart Kennedy, Incident Manager for Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre's COVID-19 response.  

“We are very grateful to our partners at Lakehead University and NOSM for coming together and collecting donations. Their efforts will save lives and allow our health care professionals to focus on providing safe, quality care.”  

Dr. Andrew Dean, Lakehead’s Vice-President, Research and Innovation, is challenging other businesses and organizations in Thunder Bay, Northern Ontario and Orillia to do what they can to help.  

“Please look through your surplus PPE inventories to continue the momentum. Donations big and small are critical to have available in our communities in the next few weeks,” Dr. Dean said.  

Donations can be made to the Northern Ontario PPE for HCP campaign (#PPEforHCPs), an initiative led by NOSM students who were encouraged by the Ontario Medical Students Association (OMSA) and the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) to take up the cause by approaching local businesses to see if they had anything to contribute.  

“The #PPEforHCPs is rising to the challenge of sourcing personal protective equipment from over 28 communities and counting,” said Alannah MacLean, a second-year NOSM medical student in Thunder Bay. The objective is to divert existing PPE within a community to the institutions (i.e. hospitals and clinics) that currently need it most.  

MacLean said Maranda Henry and Jane Luft have done an incredible job leading and organizing their volunteers.  

The NOSM student campaign differs from campaigns in southern Ontario, as the students are working to cover more than just the major cities.  

The Northern Ontario School of Medicine faces the extreme challenge of having a distributed campus that encompasses the entirety of Northern Ontario—over 800,000 km². They have received contributions from several organizations and businesses.

“In Thunder Bay, Magnus Theatre, Superior Nails, an anonymous dental clinic, TBT Engineering, and Hamm Home Rehab have all contributed to our PPE campaign,” MacLean said.  

“As part of our fundraising campaign to support manufacturing and operating costs for PPE production, we received a $1,000 donation from Domtar Corporation in Dryden. Domtar also donated an additional $4,000 directly to the hospitals in Thunder Bay, Sioux Lookout, Dryden, and Red Lake,” she added.  

Dr. Sarita Verma, NOSM’s Dean, President and CEO, said she is impressed with the work her students have been doing.  

“The hard work and advocacy I’m witnessing from our medical students is creating such terrific momentum,” Dr. Verma said. “I’m inspired by their initiative and social responsibility and proud of how they are stepping up to support their colleagues on the frontlines.”  

If any businesses or individuals in Northern Ontario would like to make a financial contribution or donate PPE, please reach out to NOSM students using   

In Orillia, Rebecca Heffernan, Research and Strategic Initiatives Facilitator, collected around 4,000 pairs of gloves from Sustainability Sciences that will go to the Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital.  

“It was definitely nice to see everyone pulling together to help our community during such trying times,” Heffernan said. “Having donated to the Hospital directly will ensure that we are putting the much-needed PPE into the hands of our frontline healthcare workers.”  

Dr. Sree Kurissery, Chair of Sustainability Sciences, said she is hopeful that life will return to normal sometime soon.  

"I hope the world finds peace soon and humanity wins the battle against this disease. Everyone, stay safe and healthy.”