A Kelowna company is celebrating a milestone of producing 46 million masks in under a year for the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
Breathe Medical Manufacturing Ltd. (Breathe) just finished its last shipment for a 46 million mask contract that were sent to distribution centres across the country.
At this time last year, Breathe didn’t even have a facility – it had only just secured the federal contract to produce ASTM level 1 masks.
“We received the keys to an empty warehouse shell in May 2020. Our first round of equipment arrived in June, and production was fully up and running by August. Since then, our team has been working around the clock—we run 24 hours per day, seven days per week—to provide safe, high-quality masks to front line workers across all sectors,” explained Breathe’s CEO Robert Balazs.
Growing rapidly and currently employing more than 175 people out of its Kelowna production facility, Breathe is located near major transportation and distribution routes, such as the Kelowna International Airport. While the main effort has been focused on completing its commitment to the federal government, the company has also serviced contracts ranging from a few thousand units per month up to the millions of units required monthly in the PHAC contract.
Now, Breathe is working with its national and international distributors to supply to additional markets and industries, including provincial and regional health agencies, dental offices, industrial sites, food processors, educational institutions, and health and beauty care facilities that will require ongoing access to personal protective equipment – long after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
“COVID-19 has taught all of us that Canada needs to establish its own high-quality PPE supply chain. This is after we experienced Canada’s vulnerability, marked by panic buying, lack of inventory, shipping delays, and quality-related recalls at the start of the pandemic last spring,” said Balazs.
He adds that Breathe was able to employ people who lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
Currently, Breathe is developing MRI-compaitble masks, masks with anti-fogging technology, and 95PFE respirators.