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Winnipeg Free Press

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A family physician who has yet to receive personal protective equipment says he’s worried the shortage of essential supplies is putting people at risk.

Dr. Jonathon Werier, who has been a family doctor for 40 years, said despite Shared Health promising the implementation of universal PPE for all health-care workers with direct contact with patients by the week of April 13, he hasn't received anything.

"They sent us sort of a no-name hand sanitizer, we were supposed to get complete PPEs… but they have done nothing," he said.

Werier’s Pembina-based office is now closed for in-person appointments, but should he receive PPE, he said he would be happy to provide his services in the fight to stop the spread of COVID-19 — a feeling he said is shared by other family physicians.

"I’m willing to work as much as possible if I’m provided the proper protection so I don’t take this home and make my family sick, and quite frankly, as an older physician, I have no qualms about volunteering to do this," he said.

Last week, Manitoba Shared Health chief nursing officer Lanette Siragusa said scaling back of the universal implementation was a possibility, noting the province was "going to have periods where we have to make some changes temporarily until we maybe replenish a stock and then go back."

Werier said he had been informed about a week ago he would receive PPE, but the arrival of hand sanitizer led him to believe the province was "just scrambling to send us what they had" in a response he said was similar to that of the H1N1 virus in 2009.

"We’re not being protected. This reminds me of when they dropped the ball: we had the H1N1 flu and they did not immunize doctors first so they would be well to look after patients with it," he said.

"It’s unbelievable."

In a daily update Wednesday, Siragusa again emphasized online appointments with doctors when possible, but if in-person appointments are necessary, there were venues to make sure (health-care workers) get PPE.

"We meet with logistics and they let us know when there’s challenges with shipments coming in, but they also reassure us that supplies are being delivered," she said.

An online portal for health-care workers to request supplies was in the works, she added.

In a statement sent to the Winnipeg Free Press, Doctors Manitoba president Dr. Fourie Smith said the group, which represents over 3,000 physicians, conducted a survey last weekend and found only 36 per cent of physicians surveyed received PPE from the province.

"In the cases where masks and other supplies have been delivered, physicians have been grateful, but more often, orders are arriving incomplete, or not arriving at all," he said.

Werier said he felt the stilted distribution of PPE was discouraging.

"It’s just disappointing that we didn’t have better pandemic planning in place."


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Malak Abas

Malak Abas

Malak Abas is a reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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