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A shipment of personal protective equipment (PPE) arrived at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton on Tuesday, April 14, which was sent directly from the Guangzhou Institute for Respiratory Health (GIRH) in Guangzhou, China. The shipment includes nine boxes of N95 respirators and another nine boxes of masks, face shields, and gloves.

PPE supplies are urgently needed as the number of COVID-19 patients being treated at St. Joe’s is expected to rise dramatically over the next two weeks. The Hospital has put out calls to the community for donations of PPE, and several individuals and businesses have already responded with their own contributions.

The shipment from Guangzhou was arranged by Dr. Martin Kolb (pictured above), a staff respirologist and research director of the Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health at St. Joe’s, who reached out to colleagues in China. There, Dr. Nanshan Zhong and Dr. Jianxing He and their team happily agreed to send their latest shipment of PPE to Canada.

Their gesture “shows that collegiality, friendship, and humanity is not stopped by borders,” said Dr. Kolb.

The Guangzhou research team posed for a group photo with one researcher holding a box of PPE emblazoned with a message of unity in the fight against COVID-19. Dr. Wendy Wang, second from the left, is a joint employee of St. Joe’s and GIRH and helped to facilitate the shipment. Dr. Nanshan Zhong, pictured fifth from the left, was the first to describe SARS in 2002 and was also in charge of the medical management of the first COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China.

“International collaboration helps us perform higher quality, faster research compared to what we can each do alone,” said Dr. Jack Gauldie, Vice President, Research at St. Joe’s. “Fortunately, in times of great need, having research partners can also have a direct clinical benefit, as we have seen here. With limited supplies of N95 masks and other PPE, we are incredibly grateful to our friends in Guangzhou for having shared their stock with our Hospital.”

St. Joe’s Firestone Institute for Respiratory Health established a formal research partnership with Guangzhou in 2012, which has yielded numerous peer-reviewed publications, presentations, and international meetings. More recently, Dr. Martin Stämpfli of the Firestone Institute took a one-year research leave to help establish a clinical research program at the GIRH. Several of Dr. Stämpfli’s graduate students have also travelled to Guangzhou as part of a research exchange program.

“The collaboration between the Respirology groups of Guangzhou and Hamilton has resulted in many joint projects, grants, and publications, including the New England Journal of Medicine,” said Dr. Kolb. “Last year, I had the privilege to assess lung fibrosis patients in our partner institute and saw the excellence and gratitude of our Chinese friends and colleagues. This wonderful gesture of sending PPE at a time of great need really says more than words.”

St. Joe’s is still in need of PPE, including N95 surgical, medical, and procedural masks, face shields, and impervious gowns. If you are interested in donating any of these items, please send an email to donations@stjoes.ca.

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