When the 2,100 N95 masks arrived at the Langley NAPA distribution centre, there was never any question they would be donated.
Selling them was not considered, according to Greg Phoenix, general operations manager of NAPA Auto Parts – Pacific.
“When we saw what we were getting, we wanted to make sure it had the best use,” Phoenix told the Langley Advance Times.
After the surprise shipment landed earlier this month, it was simply a matter of figuring out who would get the masks.
Rather than try to parcel them out to different agencies, NAPA opted to donate the masks to Operation Protect, an initiative launched by SafeCare B.C. to encourage individuals and organizations to donate any spare personal protective equipment to help with the fight against COVID-19, including examination gloves, surgical masks, protective gowns, eye protection, hand sanitizers, and medical-grade disinfectant wipes.
SafeCare B.C. is an industry funded, non-profit association with a stated goal of working to ensure injury-free, safe working conditions for continuing care workers in BC.
For Phoenix, a former Langley resident whose dad just moved to an assisted living facility in Langley, it was the “right thing” to do.
Staff at the Langley centre, which distributes to various NAPA stores in the lower Mainland, were enthusiastic, Phoenix added.
Phoenix noted the automotive parts industry generally has been redirecting supplies like masks and other personal protective equipment to help during the coronavirus crisis.
“The whole industry is really reacting that way.”
If more masks happen to arrive, they will be donated too, Phoenix added.
He hopes other businesses will follow suit.
Ken Donohue from SafeCare B.C. welcomed the contribution.
“It’s fantastic to see businesses step up,” Donohue said.
“This is hugely needed.”
Donohue said masks are “desperately” required by long-term care homes, who are running short of protective gear like masks, face shields and gloves.
So far, more than 400 donors have contributed more than 450,000 items to Operation Protect.
Donations are added to the provincial supply, then distributed to hospitals and other care organizations, including long-term care, home care, community health support, and assisted living facilities.
A recent Safe Care BC survey of 478 long-term-care, assisted-living, home support and community living providers found 70 per cent were experiencing a critical shortage of personal protective equipment, with 77 per warning they have no N95 masks or only have enough to last up to three days.