TORONTO -- The Canadian Medical Association is presenting a grim outlook of the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) in Canada.

According to a survey of nearly 5,000 CMA members, more than one-third of community-based physicians say they have run out of N95 masks and other protective equipment, or will do so within two days.

“This is gravely concerning for front-line physicians and other health-care workers,” CMA President Dr. Sandy Buchman told CTV News Channel on Thursday. “They’re anxious, they’re concerned and that’s just adding another stress to their workload right now.” Along with the lack of equipment, the survey also shows that 71 per cent of community-based doctors – those working in offices or walk-in clinics – have tried to order supplies in the past month, but only 15 per cent received confirmation that these supplies had been shipped or received.

Most hospital physicians, meanwhile, were not sure how long their current supply of PPE would last and those involved in the survey are being asked to ration supplies, from eye and face shields to goggles and glasses. News of this survey was compounded by a statement released Friday by 3M, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of N95 face masks and a key supplier to Canada.

According to the company, the White House has requested that it stop exporting U.S.-made N95 masks to Canada.

At his daily press briefing on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it would be a “mistake” to restrict the back-and-forth trade of essential goods and services across the Canada-U.S. border, including the delivery of medical supplies. Despite the news, Trudeau insists he remains confident Canada will be able to secure enough masks for health-care workers to perform their jobs. “We’re receiving more shipments from places around the world,” said Trudeau. “We will do everything we can to ensure that no part of Canada goes without essential supplies in facing this pandemic.”

This week alone, the federal government announced the orders of several millions of masks that have either been placed or received. On Tuesday, Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand announced that more than 157,000,000 surgical masks have been secured. The following day, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland added that the government has ordered an additional 65,000,000 N95 masks.

This is in addition to a shipment of 11 million masks that arrived in Canada this week. A majority of these masks are already being distributed to provinces and territories across the country. On CTV’s Power Play, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages Melanie Joly pointed to the medical supplies being produced domestically, as manufacturers continue to shift production to meet the needs of Canada’s health-care system. “We’re seeing great examples all across the country of basically, workers really making sure different businesses do that supply and send it all across the country,” Joly said on Thursday. “Not only will we order more supply, we’ll make sure that there’s a team Canada approach.”

While a greater supply of PPE is certainly crucial in helping front-line medical staff, Buchman insists that more transparency regarding the distribution of the equipment is just as important. “We’re calling for better co-ordination and full transparent information so that not only physicians but health authorities [and] administrators will know where to best deploy that equipment,” he said. On Friday morning, Buchman says he was able to meet with Health Minister Patty Hajdu and present these concerns.

This included asking the federal government for direct communication to doctors and nurses about the type of equipment coming in, when it will arrive and where it is going, as well as contact information to order PPE. “We want to know the availability of what’s coming down the pipeline, and when it will arrive,” Buchman told Friday via telephone.

“If we know we’re going to receive an adequate supply of equipment in a certain period of time, it allows us to plan and decide how much we have to ration.

“This reduces a significant amount of anxiety that health-care workers don’t need at this time.” Buchman says this information is crucial in making sure equipment goes to communities that need it most right now. Those areas facing greater shortages of supplies and higher numbers of cases should be prioritized, he says, pointing to provinces like Quebec and Ontario. This will help health-care workers better manage the flow of patients. “It buys us some time and as we’re trying to flatten the curve – which is the goal here, so that we don’t reach the surge that will overcome the health care system’s capacity to handle it – then I think we’ve averted a major catastrophe,” he said.