As the province looks toward measures to reopen the economy, the City of Kamloops is assessing its supply of personal protective equipment and looking into whether it can utilize its procurement channels to help local organizations that are short of supplies.
Coun. Sadie Hunter raised the issue at Tuesday’s council meeting, asking staff whether the city could utilize its established channels to secure personal protective equipment — which includes items like non-surgical masks, gloves and hand sanitizer — to help businesses and non-profits challenged by supply shortages as they reopen under provincial health guidelines in an era of COVID-19.
Hunter suggested the city could potentially procure larger orders of equipment.
“With an economy of scale, that would make things a lot easier and more accessible for smaller organizations that might not be able to access it [PPE] regularly enough and consistently enough to be able to open,” Hunter said.
“I’m not sure what that process would look like or even if it’s an option, but I know that this is a conversation provincewide and across the country, so I just wanted to put it out there as an idea for something that the city could potentially do to support our community and, having that, building that capacity, for having supplies.”
City CAO David Trawin told council the city’s procurement and purchasing department is looking into the situation. However, he noted the city has had trouble securing certain types of PPE for its own staff and, as the municipality looks toward its own reopening measures, Trawin said the city will likely also need more PPE.
Speaking with KTW, Trawin explained one situation that will drive increased demand for PPE at city hall. Staff are currently traveling one person per vehicle, which is not necessarily efficient in terms of spending on gasoline. However, in order to place two people in a vehicle together, he said, the city will require equipment like non-surgical masks. Does the city have enough supplies to do so? That remains to be seen.
Now, factor in the potential of reopening civic facilities and putting more staff in situations in which they are dealing with the public. Measures have already been put in place at city hall to ration PPE supplies, with hand sanitizer one item that has been difficult to source during the pandemic, Trawin said. The situation has not been so dire to date, however, that the city has been forced to reach out to the province to request emergency supplies.
Trawin noted the town of Sicamous sourced PPE for its community. He has reached out to the local government to learn more about what it has done, though he noted the Shuswap community is much smaller than Kamloops, with fewer businesses, and Kamloops has higher PPE needs as an organization.
In addition, Trawin said it is not clear whether the city’s contracts with suppliers will allow it to source PPE for other organizations.
“It [contract] may restrict us from taking that material and second-hand selling it,” Trawin said.
That will be part of what is looked into by the city, with more information to come.
Also on Tuesday, Mayor Ken Christian said a letter was written to municipalities recently about the use of group purchasing to support small villages and towns in the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, specifically for local governments and not the private sector. Coun. Arjun Singh noted community-based efforts, such as Sew the Curve — in which Kamloopsians are making masks and surgical caps — could also help local organizations.