What stopped The Canadian Shield from supplying the PPE and rapid tests Canada needs?

Canadian Shield
China, middle-men, and government bureaucracy.

After about six weeks of being down to illness, I now feel ‘well enough’ to record a podcast. As you might guess, my first episode back with co-host Rob Kenedi is highly topical.

Sadly, it has stayed topical since… oh, 2020.

“I don’t know why we continue to make the same mistakes.”
– Jeremy Hedges,
The Canadian Shield

Back in May 2020, we interviewed Canadian Shield founder Jeremy Hedges about his rapid pivot from edtech to PPE production.

The Canadian Shield was able to produce about 1 million face shields in its first month of production, and about 16 million from March to July 2020. And then they stopped. Why did they stop? What stopped them?

As you’ll hear on this podcast, according to Hedges, the Canadian Shield ran into huge procurement issues that prevented them from selling their product to hospitals, long-term care (LTC) facilities, and the average consumer when they needed them.

These issues have also extended to the N95 masks and rapid tests the Canadian Shield now sells, having transitioned mostly from a manufacturer to a marketplace.

These issues are myriad and complex, and Hedges does an excellent job breaking them down on this episode:

  • The fact that procurement is handled province by province.
  • That many provinces, like Ontario, don’t have a centralized procurement system.
  • Instead, they rely on third parties, group purchasing organizations, which effectively control up to 95 percent of the purchasing volume of hospitals and LTCs in contracts that last between three and nine years.
  • That new centralized procurement systems like Supply Ontario will take years to effectively spin up, with hospitals still being beholden to those long-term contracts.
  • That the US effectively put Canadian manufacturers at the back of the line for crucial NIOSH certification, forcing the CSA to rapidly develop its own certification standards for homemade N95 maks.
  • That Canada’s unwillingness to recognize certification of products from places like the EU, and its inability to purchase Canadian-manufactured products leads to inventory shortages and high price markups.

As someone who has been sick for two months, unable to secure any rapid tests for me, my family, or my employees, that has watched the province I live in delay the reopening of schools in part due to struggle to get N95 masks and rapid tests to school boards in time (and at an amount that would actually make a difference), you might understand if I sound a bit frustrated.

And given our past conversations on this podcast about similar issues regarding vaccination bookings, you might understand that this is a familiar frustration.

Hedges says on this podcast that he doesn’t “know why we continue to make the same mistakes.”

I honestly don’t know either. But I do know we won’t stop making these mistakes until we collectively acknowledge and understand why they’re happening in the first place.

Let’s dig in.

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The BetaKit Podcast is hosted by Douglas Soltys & Rob Kenedi. Edited by Kattie Laur.
Sponsored by Float.

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.

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