Minister of Health Tyler Shandro, announces a new agreement between Alberta Health Services and a local manufacturer to produce medical equipment, in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Oct. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

Calgary company to provide Alberta medical staff with face masks over two years

CALGARY — The Alberta government has contracted a Calgary company to provide more than 40 million medical masks over the next two years.

Health Minister Tyler Shandro said the $60-million agreement between Alberta Health Services and Orpyx Medical Technologies will ensure the province has sufficient medical grade personal protective equipment for its medical staff.

He said before the COVID-19 pandemic, health workers used about 33,000 masks a day; that number has skyrocketed to 600,000.

“As the pandemic swept across the globe, many jurisdictions struggled to be able to find the masks and other protective equipment that they needed to be able to protect the public and their health-care workers. Alberta was not among them,” Shandro said at a news conference Wednesday.

He said the 40 million masks will account for about 10 per cent of what the province needs.

The deal came after Orpyx responded to Alberta’s Bits and Pieces program, which sought local organizations and companies to develop and provide goods and services to support the province’s response to the pandemic.

“Many of us wouldn’t have thought about this as even a business opportunity in this province until we got into this pandemic,” said Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer.

Dr. Verna Yiu, president and CEO, of Alberta Health Services, said the program has come a long way.

“What started as an initiative to collect PPE donations to support Calgary health-care facilities quickly led to discussions among Calgary business leaders on local manufacturing,” she said.

Shandro said the Alberta government is keeping a close eye on the growing COVID-19 numbers in the province — especially in the Edmonton region.

He said there are no plans to bring in any new restrictions.

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