The president of CardioMed Supplies Inc. in Lindsay, Rafael Dubé, is trying to use his supply chains to get much needed face masks and other critical personal protective equipment to front line health care workers across Canada.
The only thing standing in his way are the independent air cargo carriers who, faced with less passengers, are nearly tripling their cargo rates to businesses like Cardio-Med.
Dubé says he’s frustrated because there’s “so much strain in the delivery due to the inflated cost of shipping air cargo.”
One container is usually about $20,000 U.S.; today, it’s more than $55,000 U.S. with speculation it will rise – and they expect businesses like his to pay everything upfront in advance.
While the Globe and Mail and other news sources are focusing on the federal government’s announcement about shipments of personal protective equipment (PPE) to start arriving within days, mainstream media seems to be missing what companies are actually facing from the airlines to get the equipment here.
“The independent air cargo carriers set the rates. They rationalize that generally you have passengers along with cargo,” Dubé tells the Advocate, so they felt they could increase their rates.
“But to triple fees because of demand,” is not fair or right, he says, exposing a lack of oversight by the federal government.
The Advocate attempted to contact three airlines for comment, none of which would speak to us by deadline.
Dubé’s wife is a nurse at Markham Stouffville Hospital. He knows full well what frontline workers are enduring every day at this stage in the pandemic.
“My biggest concern is the front line,” he says, but he’s forced to work with prices that have rocked the business community’s supply chains from an economic standpoint.
MP Jamie Schmale says he was made aware of this situation during one of his many conversations with MPP Laurie Scott.
“We have reached out to the federal minister (Marc Garneau, minister of transport) and are working with them to ensure a remedy to this situation,” Schmale tells the Advocate.
The MP says this also underscores “why it is important to ensure we have a strong manufacturing sector in Canada, so we can meet essential demands domestically.”
The MP adds he is thankful for all the people are trying to make the supply chain work to ensure frontline workers have essential supplies, such as personal protective equipment and hand sanitizer.
Dubé says he “has all the risk” in this arrangement of pre-praying and it gets worse if any flights end up in the U.S. first.
“If it ends up in the U.S. then technically the U.S. owns the product until they release it,” he says, which can result in many things, from delays in getting the product to Canada, to the U.S. destroying the product or “utilization in their own country,” as Dubé says. In other words, the U.S. can just keep anything on the plane for its own use. This was also a concern for companies during the SARS outbreak, he says.
To that end, he’s looking to only book flights directly from China to Canada, where most of his supply chain emanates from.
CardioMed is recruiting product for provinces all across Canada. He hopes to get to the point where the company can start to get products to local paramedics and others who need it, noting his 54- member team has been “outstanding” during this pandemic.
“But right now all the attention is on trying to get product to intensive care units and emergency rooms across Ontario and Canada,” he says.
“I think we need to support front line staff as best we can right now,” noting there will be time for reassessing how everything worked afterwards.
Dubé says when this pandemic is finished he hopes the country and province will be more proactive and review the potential for innovations that would bring better outcomes to patients.