TORONTO — Ontario’s premier appealed to manufacturers on Saturday to help address a shortage of key medical supplies, as the province announced a third patient being treated for COVID-19 has died.

Doug Ford said the province has established a dedicated team and website to help companies contact the government directly in a bid to address the supply shortage.

Ford said any firm that can produce items like ventilators, face masks, surgical gowns, protective eye-wear and hand sanitizers for health care workers should reach out.

“Right now our front line health care workers are running out of key items,” he said. “My message to business owners in Ontario is this. If you can re-tool your business to make these products, if you can supply these essential items, we need to hear from you right now.”

Ford’s appeal comes as the province announced that its third death related to COVID-19 is under investigation. 

Public Health Ontario confirmed 59 new cases Saturday morning, bringing the total in the province to 377, including six resolved.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit confirmed the death of a man in his 70s on Saturday who was being treated for COVID-19 in a Barrie, Ont. hospital.

He had come in close contact with a man in his 70s whose death is also under investigation as related to COVID-19, the first in Ontario recorded earlier this month.

“This is sad news and … it speaks to the need to be more aware of the seriousness of the current situation than ever and that we, as a community, as organizations and as individuals, need to work together to protect one another,” Simcoe Muskoka’s medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner said in a statement.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. David Williams, said he was not surprised to see the spike in numbers Saturday and added that the province continues to work to ramp up testing capacity.

He said that the next few weeks will be key to limiting the spread of COVID-19, stressing that everyone returning to Canada must self-isolate for 14 days to stop the virus.

“We are expecting them to do so regardless of age and where you have come from,” he said. “Everyone knows what the plan is. We just need to do it, and do it well.”

Meanwhile, Ontario’s health minister said the province is asking the doctors and pharmacists not to re-fill prescriptions with more than a 30 day supply to prevent drug shortages during the pandemic.

Christine Elliott said the government is making the move in response to a request for pharmacists who told the government some patients have been requesting refills of up to six months.

The government says doctors and pharmacists will be allowed to use their own discretion if they believe a patient requires more than a 30 days supply.

“We want to make sure that everyone can have access to the medications that they need,” she said. “We are looking at 30-day refills just to make sure that supply will remain available for everyone.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 21, 2020.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

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