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Ottawa, Manitoba announce $400K for Western Canada’s first PPE testing facility

Winnipeg will be home to Western Canada’s first testing facility for personal protective equipment, the federal government announced in a news release.

The Manitoba and federal governments are investing a combined total of $399,647 toward the Orthopeadic Innovation Centre, which will use the money to set up testing services for PPE that will ensure respiratory products being made in Canada are up to code.

The move is primarily to help safeguard the supply of made-in-Canada PPE, the release says.

“Securing our domestic supply chain of personal protective equipment is absolutely essential to the fight against COVID-19,” Mélanie Joly, federal Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages, said in the release.

“This huge step forward will get PPE into the hands of Canadians six times faster than before, help us prepare for the next stage of the pandemic and ensure that those on the front lines have the tools they need to protect Canadians.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, the entire world rushed to order the PPE health-care workers needed to battle the virus. But the global demand, limited supply and international supply chains made it difficult to get the products on Canadian soil from overseas.

As a result, many provinces, including Manitoba, sought the services of local companies to repurpose their facilities and manufacture the needed products.

But the locally made PPE still needs to be tested to ensure it meets the proper standards. Right now, the wait time before respiratory products are tested is 12 weeks, the release said.

With the help of the new testing services coming to Winnipeg, though, that wait time is expected to drop to less than two weeks.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that we need local, secure supply chains for critical medical products, including personal protective equipment,” Reg Helwer, Manitoba’s Minister of Central Services, said in the release.

“This initiative will help these local companies access rapid testing of these products, ensuring our front-line health providers have the products they need to ensure safe, quality care for patients across the province.”

Helwer said the province’s share of the investment is $200,000.

The Orthopaedic Innovation Centre, located near Concordia Hospital, will provide testing, measurement, consulting, product development and digital manufacturing services on a cost-recovery basis for various industries, the release said.

The centre will also assess and develop new technologies for those industries.

Joly and Helwer are planning to host a news conference about the initiative at 2:45 p.m. CT on Thursday.

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