RNAO public statement on COVID-19: personal protective equipment (PPE) & ventilators

March 25, 2020

The evidence of asymptomatic infection of COVID-19 necessitates that all health-care workers facing patients, residents and clients wear a surgical mask at all times.

Health organizations, across all sectors, are reporting shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) – a situation governments must urgently address. Furthermore we must be prepared for an exponential increase in the demand for PPE assuming worst-case scenarios for the COVID-19 pandemic. We all hope to avoid worst-case scenarios, but we must be prepared for them.  

Similarly, the available ventilators, required to save lives during the pandemic – including the 300 additional ones Ontario has ordered – vastly underestimate the real need under a worst-case scenario. For comparison, the governor of New York State is asking for 30,000 ventilators as the worst-case scenario becomes a reality across the United States. 

RNAO calls on the federal and provincial governments to immediately apply their powers to:

  1. Ensure health organizations – in all sectors – have ample supply of PPEs to protect their health professionals and other workers who face patients and clients, so they remain healthy and available to provide care.  
  2. Ensure health organizations with patients in need of ventilators have the necessary quantities – assuming worst-case scenarios for the pandemic – so patient lives are not lost because the proper equipment is not available. If Canada succeeds – as we hope we do – to avoid the worst-case scenario, other jurisdictions will gladly re-purchase our equipment. 

We are in a war and the enemy is the COVID-19 virus. This is a ravaging pandemic that affects each and all of us at home and abroad. Together, we can and must win. Our success will be measured by how well we come together as a people, how we protect our health-care workers, and how we save lives. Tragically, we will lose too many loved ones due to COVID-19, but our goal must be that we will not lose even one patient or health-care worker that could have been saved if we had the proper PPEs or the ventilators to care for them. 

Let’s make sure that at this difficult time, each one of us assumes our responsibility with the utmost respect for the gravity of the situation. For the public, that means staying at home, unless you work in an essential service. For governments and health organizations, that means protecting and supporting our health-care workers. And for health professionals, that means giving everything we have, because that is what we do. #TogetherWeCanDoIt

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, visit our website at or follow us on Facebook  and Twitter. 

Contact info

Marion Zych
Director of Communications
Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO)