masks in toronto

Toronto nurse makes desperate plea for face masks and medical supplies

Work is getting scarier and scarier by the day for Toronto's frontline healthcare workers as the global COVID-19 pandemic intensifies locally and protective supplies run out.

Anyone who's ever known one can tell you that nurses have it harder than most. Their jobs are vital, complicated, fast-paced, gruelling and sometimes dangerous, even in times of relative epidemiological peace.

With the highly-contagious 2019 novel coronavirus spreading rapidly in Ontario, many nurses and doctors are now willingly putting their own lives at risk every day to help treat the infected — while wearing old, soiled or even no personal protective equipment.

One nurse who leads a team on the COVID-19 unit at St. Joseph's Health Centre in west Toronto decided to document parts of her shift overnight on Monday in an effort to secure some much-needed gear.

"Whatever you can donate, we're in dire need of supplies at St. Joe's," she said in the first of seven video clips shared on Tuesday with the Liberty Village Residents Association Facebook group.

"We've just been informed we’re going to be out of hand sanitizer soon so I'll be bringing my own in of that also," the nurse continued. "We're running out of masks. It's very discouraging."

"Whatever you can spare, we need it. Our hospital is the underdog and we have so many sick people."

Another video shows the nurse running through the hospital as she prepares to send a suspected COVID-19 patient to the ICU. In a different video, after transferring the patient, she is seen without her cap on.

"It's been a very eventful night," she said to the camera. "I had to throw out my cap because it got contaminated as we were transferring [the patient] over."

It's a scary, but accurate look into the lives of a hospital where stores of personal protective equipment are dwindling, says the nurse, whose name is being withheld at request for privacy.

"We don't want to die keeping others alive. It's like sending soldiers to war without weapons," she said in an interview on Tuesday, noting her emotional distress. "No armour and no weapons."

"I am just trying to do the job I always wanted to do. I shouldn't have to re-use an N95 and reuse a home made face shield," she continued. "I am so mad the we are so disposable to the Ford Government."

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said on Monday during a press conference that his government is in the process of "securing massive, massive amounts of new inventory" for hospitals to protect their staff and treat patients.

Canada's federal government likewise pledged $2 billion toward medical supplies for frontline healthcare workers across the country on Tuesday and many community groups have taken up the cause locally with fundraisers, PPE drives and mass donations of supplies.

Some Toronto manufacturers have switched their operations over to produce only masks or hand sanitizer in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19, while institutions like Ryerson University and the Toronto Public Library are using their 3D equipment to produce face shields.

Still, with nearly 2,000 cases of COVID-19 now confirmed in Ontario (591 of them in Toronto), nobody knows how long it will take to get the pandemic under control, or how many pieces of personal protective equipment our healthcare workers will need.

In addition to supplies, healthcare workers need people to take social distancing measures seriously.

"We've had deaths... it is in the community," said the St. Joseph's nurse on Tuesday.

"People aren’t taking this home isolation seriously... it's very discouraging since I am literally giving my life right now to keep others safe."

Those with personal protective equipment or medical supplies to donate to St. Joseph's Health Centre at 30 The Queensway can do so by dropping them off at the COVID-19 assessment centre in the Sunnyside Building.

Hospitals all over the city are currently accepting donations of N95 masks, surgical masks, face shields, surgical gowns, gloves and protective medical goggles to keep the heroes fighting this pandemic on the front lines safe from the deadly coronavirus.

Lead photo by

Liberty Village Residents Association

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