Fighting the snowstorm together to get PPE to health-care employees

February 2, 2021

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The worst Saskatoon snowstorm in over a decade did not stop health-care system partners from making sure important personal protective equipment (PPE) made it to health-care employees fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

In November of 2020, around 35 centimetres of snow fell on the city.
 
Getting prepared
“Canada Cartage’s Director of Operations, Cayle Vermeulen, notified K-Bro a few days before that a big storm was coming. We prepared accordingly by getting extra deliveries to health-care sites,” says Jackie Belanger, K-Bro Linen System’s General Manager. Canada Cartage is the transportation and logistics company that delivers the linens K-Bro washes.
 
“What we both didn’t know was that the storm was going to hit Saskatoon. Initially, forecasts predicted the storm was headed for the south of the province.”
 
The intense storm moved north, covering Saskatoon in over a foot of snow. With the entire city at a standstill, tow trucks were overwhelmed and even the municipal election was postponed.
 
“Five trailers with thousands of pounds of PPE were stuck in over a foot of snow three blocks away from the distribution centre,” Belanger says. “We reached out to 3sHealth right away.”
 
The response
3sHealth then escalated the issue to the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), and the SHA contacted the City of Saskatoon. City graders plowed the snow within two hours. The trailers were then on the move and the PPE on its way to protect front-line employees.
 
“When I heard that trailers with PPE were stuck, I immediately reached out to our partners at the City of Saskatoon to explain the gravity of the situation,” says Russell Laidlaw, the SHA’s Director of Protective Services and Health Emergency Management.
 
“Every organization and household should have their own plan to manage during the first 72 hours of an emergency,” explains Pamela Goulden-McLeod, the Director of Emergency Management Organization at the City of Saskatoon. “The entire community needs to rally together during emergencies. If responding to a certain situation during an emergency is in the best interest of the entire city, such as when safety and lives are at stake, the City of Saskatoon’s Emergency Operations Centre can add this situation to the priorities to be met during that operational cycle.”
 
Partnerships are the linchpin of emergency preparedness
Laidlaw attributes the success that day to the groundwork the SHA had laid long before the snowstorm. “It’s important to develop and foster these relationships continuously and then, later, reach out for help in a time of need,” says Laidlaw. “The negative implications of the snowstorm could have been very serious, but, thanks to everyone’s efforts and our strong partnerships, patient care went on that day with no disruptions. I thank the City of Saskatoon and the folks that supported our request.”
 
Goulden-McLeod agrees. “This storm showed us that we can have the best processes and preparation, and that the most crucial factor when responding to emergencies will be the deep, longstanding partnerships that the City prides itself on cultivating,” says Goulden-McLeod.
 
“No matter the obstacles, the strong partnerships in Saskatchewan’s health-care system are helping to ensure that PPE gets to health-care employees on time to help them fight the pandemic,” says 3sHealth CEO Mark Anderson. “It was amazing to watch everyone work together so well.”


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