What you may not know about the AHS face masks

Kim Siever
5 min readMay 15, 2020

Last week, someone reached out to me over email. They claim that they work in the supply management side of Alberta Health Services and wanted to share some of what’s happening behind the scene.

The first thing this AHS employee wanted me to know was that their department is trying to do what they can to source and distribute supplies to AHS sites:

We’re working as hard as we can to source and manage stock outs. Vendors are dealing with supply disruptions because everyone needs the same things. Sites are getting PPEs stolen, and entire hand sanitizing units are being ripped off walls. We have to ration the quantity of PPEs we send to each site.

With that being said, this worker is frustrated with actions and rhetoric of both the provincial government and AHS management. One area is the ongoing dismissal of concerns regarding masks, and related instructional PDFs and videos, like this one.

One concern that healthcare staff have expressed about the new masks was the odd odour, something they claim didn’t exist in the masks they used to use.

the masks ahs ordered for us from china smell, don’t fit snugly on the face, are constantly sliding down, and are making me break OUT. i also waste about 5 a shift because the ear loops keep snapping off. ain’t nobody else allowed to complain 😤

- nika (@thatssooonika) April 29, 2020

Could we please receive masks that don’t cause rashes, headaches (because of the chemical smell) and need to be adjusted constantly as they don’t fit anybody? Also, is there no company in Canada that makes masks? Why do we need to wear “made in China” if we could support 🇨🇦!

- Claudia Nehring (@ClaudiaNehring) April 26, 2020

AHS is using faulty masks right now, multiple complaints (rash, throat irritation, cough, poor fit) They smell of chemicals. No more Chinese Junk please

- Astral Gypsy of Space and Time CCIA™ (@signalsofvirtue) April 23, 2020

According to the person who emailed me, the supply management side of AHS has has been unpacking masks over the last few weeks to offgas from the manufacturing smells. They said that while they’ve been unpacking the masks, they’ve noticed differences in product consistency, despite all apparently coming from the same company: Vanch.

But it isn’t just this person’s own perception. They included in their email a photo they took showing several quality control certificates. At the bottom of each certificate is the company that produced that mask.

In this batch of certificates, you can clearly see 2 manufacturers: Henan Xianghe Medical Materials Co., Ltd. in Zhoukou, China, and Anhui Yimeijian Medical Products Co., Ltd. in Tianchang, China. Zhoukou and Tianchang are about 500 kilometres apart. This shows that not only does Vanch not produce all the masks they sell, but they contract it out to multiples manufacturers.

Staff in the supply department were told by AHS that when unpacking and repacking masks, they should watch for differences in quality, in particular the nose pinchers.

Take the photo below, for example, which the sender included in their email.

The mask in the background had good pinchers, while the one in the foreground immediately reverts back to its packaged state after pinching.

Staff check one mask from each case that comes across their workspace. If the mask has good pinchers, they mark the entire case with an A, designating it for acute care. If the mask had poor pinchers, they marked the entire case with a C, designating it for community care.

According to this person, “many cases” were designated community care.

If you rewatch the YouTube I included above, you can see the model is demonstrating a mask that had been designated acute care.

On 9 April 2020, the AHS Board approved the purchase of PPEs “through Mraiche Holding Corporation, on the terms and conditions reviewed by the Finance Committee and the Board”, despite purchase orders being filled with Mriache Holding in mid-March.

It’s unclear what those terms were, as I couldn’t find anything beyond that statement, but the person who sent me this information claims that the Vanch masks cost about 85¢ apiece through Mraiche Holding. They also claim that the 3M N95 masks they used to procure from Acklands-Grainger cost about 50¢ apiece. Through Mraiche Holding, according to this employee, AHS is paying $8 for N95’s and $3 for KN96's.

Related to that, this AHS worker claims that AHS has purchased orders for various PPEs (including gowns and thermometers) from Mraiche Holding totalling about $228 million. That’s $228 million in just two months, $50 million of which is for 3-ply ear loop Vanch masks.

Mraiche Holding is an Alberta-based corporation with subsidiary companies that include Mraiche Investment Corp; MYE Canada Inc, a bottled water company; Carver PA Corporation, a technical training company specializing in oil & gas industry training; and Krude Productions Inc., an underground utility construction contractor. According to their website, KPI has worked on the following projects:

  • Bison: a natural gas pipeline by TC Energy (Transcanada)
  • Woodland: a crude oil pipeline by Enbridge
  • Keystone: a crude oil pipeline by TC Energy
  • Rockies Express: a natural gas pipeline by Kinder Morgan
  • Alberta Clipper: a crude oil pipeline by Enbridge

Carver PA Corporation is owned by someone named Sam Mraiche (also known as Hassin Mraiche), who in a 2013 tax court ruling was listed as the company’s president. In 2013, Carver was taken to court by the minister of national revenue for not paying Employment Insurance premiums and Canada Pension Plan contributions when hiring a consultant to work on a pipeline project with Suncor.

According to the person who emailed me, Sam Mraiche is the vendor contact for Mraiche Holding and emailed AHS using his Carver email address.

Originally published at kimsiever.ca on 15 May 2020.

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Kim Siever

Writer. Parent. Spouse. Radical left. Finished writing a book on capitalism. My next book is on the history of the labour movement in Lethbridge, AB. He/him.