The Masking Together Challenge began because I wanted to help my patient. At age 31, she was about to begin chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer April 2nd. As she fights for her life, I wanted to make sure it was focused on her cancer and not complicated by getting COVID-19 because of her weakened immune system. A mask would be her shield and armour to and from the hospital.
Today, for any of us to get a box of masks, you’d likely have to order direct from the manufacturer. The minimum order, millions of them! My Canadian medical supplier, Xthetica, said if I could cover 1 million of them with him, we can try. And try we did, including taking our own money to put a down payment on the masks to quicken the delivery date, and arranging the cargo to leave China for Canada.
At this point, you might ask, what we were going to do with millions masks? We were bullish that we could find donors to buy them at cost and gift them to local hospitals. Hence the birth of a Million Masks Challenge.
Thanks to my wonderful client donors, I was able secure some funding from donors to buy masks and donate them to Hospital Foundations. The red tape and logistics were broken, and we were on our way!
We Hit a Snag
It was truly a geo-political crisis. Our order was never filled or delivered. All supplies over the last week of March suddenly got ‘diverted’ to one country, no masks to Europe or even Russia (they lost their order too via our European connection). And yes, even another Canadian provincial order. Despite help from our Canadian government logistics team and their ‘on the ground support’ in China, we lost our order to another ‘higher bidder.’ In fact, five times higher. There was also a new issue of fake masks.
All I can say is, there’s something wrong. Really wrong. And truthfully, I’m really MAD.
Xthetica’s founder, Manny Kapur, and I have stopped our quest to source masks. This game is beyond us two small business players. Thankfully, our deposit came back because we placed our order safely through his European mask distributor.
But we haven’t given up. We all shouldn’t give up. Onto Masking Together: V2.0.
Made in Canada
Today, Canadian manufacturers are retooling their factories and making masks! Though not N95, we can use more everyday surgical masks, everywhere. Because it’s not mass produced, it’s not ‘cheap.’ But then, we are not here in these economic times to merely think about a simple consumer goods transaction. This factory is now rehiring those laid off in the textile industry. We are feeding families by buying locally, hand-finished, surgical grade masks.
We will buy local. These will be ‘couture’ masks, made in Canada!
When masks become available to us, we will have them to backfill our hospitals supplies and be ready for “Wave Two”. While we wait for official Health Canada certification of these new masks, we will make them available for patients who are immunocompromised. Like mine. Where my journey into the Masks procurement began.
The Need is Great for All Types of PPE. As this Challenge is dynamic, our team is now sourcing disposable gowns and gloves as well. This too will help us fill the gap to not only protect the individual’s face, but also mitigate the contamination risk of scrubs going from room to room.
Stay tuned as we add ‘inventory’ to our PPE Challenge.
How To Distribute Our PPE
Any PPE donated to the University of Toronto will be distributed to affiliated hospitals based on an ethical framework, developed in partnership with the 13 Toronto Academic Health Science Network (informed by the WHO document issued Feb. 27, 2020).
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Are there administrative fees to U of T Faculty of Medicine?
100% of donations will go to the respective funds. There are no administrative fees or charges.
Can I donate by wire transfer or stock?
Yes, you can donate by wire transfer or stock and certainly by credit card, and cheques too.
How do I get a Charitable Tax Receipt?
If making a donation online, a tax receipt will be emailed to you immediately. If making a donation by wire transfer, stock or cheque, a tax receipt will be mailed to you shortly after.
Can I direct my donation to one specific challenge?
We will be asking you to share your preferences, if any. However, as this Challenge evolves, priorities will change and we would like for the University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine team, to ethically prioritize the funds to the most urgent needs in a timely and appropriate manner.
Can I choose which challenge impacts I want to support?
We will be asking you if you have any preferences during your donation registration. Our goal is to place the impact where it’s needed the most given the uncertainty of need during the weeks and months ahead. However, your wishes will be honoured.
What is the governance model that you will be using for this Challenge?
The donation is collected by the University of Toronto. The governance of the funds is managed by the Dean of Medicine, in consultation with the Dean’s Executive Team. The distribution of the assets will be done in consultation with the Toronto Academic Health Science Network. See more about this throughout our website.
Beyond providing our frontline with masks, we can do more. At the peak of the pandemic, up to 20% of healthcare providers may need to be isolated at any one time, away from their family. Many Residents and Fellows (specialists in training) often have trouble finding a place to self isolate safely. Hence, together with the U of T Faculty of Medicine, we are reaching out to hotel chains to help with critical short-term accommodation.
The University of Toronto, Faculty of Medicine, has created a Toronto COVID-19 Action Fund of $6,000,000, and we are seeking contributions to increase the size of this fund (target of $10M). This Fund supports research that renders near-term results (12 months) to positively impact individuals, communities and public health systems. The funds are open to researchers at U of T and across our partner hospitals.