Niagara grape growers have answered the call from the local hospital foundation for help in purchasing critical equipment to treat patients stricken with the potentially deadly COVID-19 virus.
Grape Growers of Ontario announced Thursday it is donating $66,000 for the purchase of a life-saving ventilator — one of 32 such machines Niagara Health Foundation is attempting to acquire for the local hospital system.
"This is where we live and work and raise our families, and this pandemic has affected all of us in some way," said Matthias Oppenlaender, the chair of the growers association who did a virtual cheque presentation with foundation president and chief executive officer Roger Ali Thursday morning.
"We see this as an opportunity, even a responsibility, to give back to our community."
Matthias Oppenlaender is pictured talking virtually to Roger Ali, President and CEO of the Niagara Health Foundation. Picture by Bob Tymczyszyn, Torstar
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The foundation has put out a call for equipment the hospital system needs to treat patients and protect nurses and doctors during the pandemic.
Along with personal protective gear including masks, face shields, gloves and gowns, the foundation has put a call out for ventilators — life-saving machines for patients suffering severe respiratory problems due to COVID-19 — and 25 beds which cost about $6,000 each.
Niagara's acting medical officer of health, Dr. Mustafa Hirji, said while 80 per cent of patients experience mild symptoms, the virus can cause life-threatening symptoms in some patients, including those with other medical issues.
There are 67 active COVID-19 cases in Niagara and at St. Catharines hospital — Niagara Health's treatment hub for serious novel coronavirus cases — there are 21 people being treated for the virus, although not all of them are Niagara residents.
Niagara Health has 58 ventilators across its St. Catharines, Niagara Falls and Welland hospitals. Some of those units are being used to treat patients with non-COVID-19 illnesses.
Demand for the life-saving equipment has skyrocketed around the world as hospitals and governments scramble to meet the needs of a rapidly growing population of sick of people.
"We are pursuing every avenue to source ventilators and other equipment by working with our vendors and partners at the regional, provincial and federal level," said Derek McNally, Niagara Health vice-president of clinical services, in a statement.
"The Ontario and Canadian governments are aggressively working to secure shipments of ventilators. Canada's ventilator supply is a fluid situation and changes by the day. The Ontario government a few days ago announced it had signed a deal to acquire 10,000 new ventilators, and we expect to receive an allotment from this order."
In a statement, Ali said the foundation is "deeply grateful for the support we have received from Grape Growers of Ontario and other organizations in Niagara."
"During these difficult times, the foundation continues to carry out its work supporting our medical teams and our hospitals, which is becoming more critical by the day. This vital life-saving ventilator will be used in our front-line to combat COVID-19."
In addition to donating cash to buy a ventilator, Grape Growers of Ontario issued a challenge to industry partners, businesses and suppliers to do the same.
"Ventilators are a vital piece of equipment to manage those most seriously affected by this virus, and the Grape Growers of Ontario want to do our part to help in these difficult times," said chief executive officer Debbie Zimmerman.
"Please help!"Source : Grape Growers of Ontario