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Niagara Health first hospital in the world to purchase Indigenous-supplied, branded medical gloves

Posted Jul 3rd, 2023

Two people dressed in scrubs stand in a warehouse holding boxes of medical gloves

Stores Attendants Brandon Mallett and Judy Czerlau show off a shipment of acute care, nitrile gloves from Medical, Surgical and Safety Supplies Ltd. (MSS), one of the leading Indigenous-owned medical companies in Canada. The delivery reflects the next step in Niagara Health's reconciliation journey, which includes partnering as a Mohawk Medbuy member to build an Indigenous value-based supply chain. A portion of the proceeds from the MSS Indigenous glove program, which is a collaboration with manufacturer PRIMED Medical Products, will support Indigenous communities.

A unique partnership initiated by Niagara Health has led to a global first while putting the hospital on the path toward economic reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples.

Niagara Health recently became the first hospital in the world to receive a shipment of Indigenous-supplied, acute care nitrile medical gloves. The gloves, manufactured by PRIMED Medical Products, are distributed exclusively by Certified Aboriginal Business Medical, Surgical and Safety Supplies (MSS) Ltd. through Mohawk Medbuy Corporation, a not-for-profit, shared services organization that provides supply chain and other services to hundreds of Canadian hospitals.

MSS's Indigenous stylized bear logoThe gloves are co-branded with PRIMED’s logo alongside MSS’s Indigenous stylized bear branding, bringing a visible Indigenous presence to operating, examination, testing and treatment rooms at Niagara Health’s Fort Erie, Niagara Falls, Port Colborne and Welland sites.

The gloves are also symbolic of Niagara Health’s commitment to economic reconciliation and implementing certain calls to action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  

“We want to show our commitment to Economic Reconciliation,” says Sue Nenadovic, Niagara Health’s Director of Strategic Sourcing and Logistics. “We’re actually taking action that starts us on a critically important journey.”

The collaboration came to be after former Niagara Health board member and Mi’kmaw lawyer Bernd Christmas introduced Angela Zangari, Niagara Health Chief Financial Officer and Executive Vice-President, Finance, Redevelopment and Facilities, to MSS President James Hiebert. Both Christmas and Zangari were intent on following the federal government’s lead of achieving five per cent procurement from Indigenous businesses.

“I always had that idea that we should buy Indigenous products as best we can,” Zangari says. “Our goal was ‘How can we make this work?’ Even if it’s small steps, let’s make this happen.”

A woman with shoulder-length brown hair smiles for the camera.

Angela Zangari

Zangari, who sits on the Mohawk Medbuy board, connected Hiebert with Tony DiEmanuele, the company’s President and CEO, to initiate building an Indigenous value-based supply chain starting with MSS.

From there, Mohawk Medbuy introduced Hiebert and MSS to some of their contracted vendors, including PRIMED to see where the collaboration could go. The result was co-branded gloves that Mohawk Medbuy is now marketing to its member hospitals, explains Veronica Guido, Mohawk Medbuy’s Director of Indigenous Partnerships and Strategies.

“Without Niagara Health, that initial introduction to James wouldn’t have happened and it’s been a butterfly effect,” Guido says. “Now the gloves are here and it’s really exciting to see this come full circle and be a product that we’re seeing in hospital rooms. It’s a visible reminder that Indigenous Peoples are here, and Economic Reconciliation is possible and can happen if we put our minds to it and work to support Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs.”

Economic Reconciliation is the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples, communities and businesses in all aspects of economic activity, nurturing their success and prosperity. This partnership starts that journey, MSS’s Hiebert says.

Creating an Indigenous value-based supply chain

“Angela and Tony took the initiative to connect the dots and start that journey of reconciliation,” Hiebert says. “The future is working together and finding new ways to do things. Angela and Tony have shown what’s possible with this first item. This shows what the supply chain can look like.”

The social benefits of the partnership help more than one Indigenous-owned business succeed. As a social enterprise, MSS is committed to sharing half its net proceeds to further Economic Reconciliation of Indigenous communities by providing scholarships for youth in science, health and pre-medical programs in Canadian universities, including in Niagara.

MSS will also work with Indigenous communities, leaders and elders to develop business opportunities, and work with Indigenous healthcare centres to ensure safe, accessible care that includes traditional healing and a trauma-informed approach to care.

“We talk about the past and present and what the future can look like,” Hiebert says. “This shows what we can do for communities and economies. And really, it’s all about delivering healthcare and adding the value of being involved in the community. We want to be at the table so we can increase the influence of Indigenous Peoples in healthcare in Canada and across the globe.”

Niagara Health will facilitate that beyond purchasing medical gloves, Zangari says. Requests for proposals for new hospital equipment, particularly with the construction of the South Niagara Site, will include criteria underscoring the importance of vendors’ Indigenous, environmental and social values and a scoring matrix based on these standards. The same will happen when purchasing medical supplies, she adds.

“We’re going to be buying $168 million of equipment for the South Niagara Site so there’s lots of opportunity there,” Zangari says. “It’s essential that we continue exploring these other avenues.”

Economic Reconciliation and Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action

By partnering with Mohawk Medbuy Corporation and Medical, Surgical and Safety Supplies Ltd., Niagara Health is working toward achieving true Economic Reconciliation and meeting calls to action 22, 23 and 92 by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Action 22

We call upon those who can effect change within the Canadian healthcare system to recognize the value of Aboriginal healing practices and use them in the treatment of Aboriginal patients in collaboration with Aboriginal healers and Elders where requested by Aboriginal patients.

Action 23

We call upon all levels of government to:

i. Increase the number of Aboriginal professionals working in the healthcare field.

ii. Ensure the retention of Aboriginal healthcare providers in Aboriginal communities.

iii. Provide cultural competency training for all healthcare professionals.

Action 92

We call upon the corporate sector in Canada to adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a reconciliation framework and to apply its principles, norms, and standards to corporate policy and core operational activities involving Indigenous peoples and their lands and resources. This would include, but not be limited to, the following:

i. Commit to meaningful consultation, building respectful relationships, and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects.

ii. Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.

iii. Provide education for management and staff on the history of Aboriginal peoples, including the history and legacy of residential schools, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal rights, Indigenous law, and Aboriginal–Crown relations. This will require skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.

Niagara Health System