Ontario expecting 1.5 million N95 masks, other protective supplies

TORONTO, March 23 (Reuters) - Canada's Ontario province, where hospitals are staring down shortages of critical medical supplies, said on Monday it expected delivery of 1.5 million N95 masks and other supplies "over the coming days and weeks," as officials reported more coronavirus cases among healthcare workers.

The news came as one major hospital, Toronto's Michael Garron, launched an online donation drive, asking veterinarians, dentists and others to donate gloves, goggles, surgical masks and more. The province said 26 healthcare workers had already tested positive for the virus.

Hospitals around the world have battled shortages of critical protective equipment while treating coronavirus patients, resorting to expired supplies, reusing equipment and experimenting with sterilizing single use items.

The province said that in the last several days, it has ordered 12 million gloves, 1 million N95 respirators, and nearly 6 million surgical masks.

Separately, the federal government has said it will provide 500,000 N95s, 1 million surgical masks, 750,000 gowns, 500,000 gloves, 750,000 face shields and 20,000 units of hand sanitizer.

Separately on Monday, Alberta's premier Jason Kenney said the province was working with Ontario to buy more protective equipment.

"We want to have as much personal protection equipment as possible, not only for our healthcare workers but for everybody from police and paramedics to workers at homeless shelters," said Kenney.

Protective equipment keeps healthcare providers from becoming sick, and also ensures they do not carry the virus from sick patients to those who are hospitalized for other reasons.

Reuters previously reported that millions of N95 masks stockpiled in Ontario had expired because there was no funding to manage the stockpile's inventory, and provincial authorities had started throwing them away. It is not clear how many expired masks remain. (Reporting by Allison Martell; Editing by Tom Brown)