A woman receives a nasal swab test at a pop-up COVID-19 assessment centre at the Angela James Arena, in Toronto, Wednesday, May 19, 2021. Auditor General Karen Horgan assesses Canada's efforts to procure medical equipment in the midst of a global pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Feds got supplies to provinces during COVID-19 despite issues with stockpile: AG

OTTAWA — A new audit says the federal government was able to get desperately needed medical equipment to provinces and territories despite long-standing issues plaguing its national emergency stockpile.

Auditor general Karen Hogan says before COVID-19 the Public Health Agency of Canada ignored multiple warnings that its national stockpile of emergency medical supplies wasn’t being properly managed.

She says that meant the agency wasn’t as prepared as it should have been for a massive surge in demand for medical devices and personal protective gear when the pandemic unleashed its first wave.

But Hogan says when the pressure mounted, both the public health agency and Public Services and Procurement Canada managed to get the needed supplies to provinces and territories anyway.

Hogan says Health Canada adjusted its policies to better assess what was needed, allocated the equipment well and moved to quickly license new suppliers.

Public Services and Procurement Canada spent more than $7 billion last year on everything from face masks and surgical gloves to hand sanitizer and face shields but Hogan only looked at four specific items including N95 ventilators, surgical gowns, testing swabs and respirators.