The men and women of Central Medical Equipment Depot (CMED) at Garrison Petawawa work at the largest Canadian Armed Forces pharmacy. They provide medication and supplies to military members across Canada and abroad. Seated is Commanding Officer Lieutenant Commander (Navy) Jody McArel, and from left are Depot Sergeant Major Master Warrant Officer Denis Goyette, Captain Leslie Fillmore and Lieutenant (Navy) Julie Nadeau. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Computers are used now to check records to determine the quantities of items on order from suppliers. Sergeant Norma Rouzes and Master Corporal Stephanie Jeffrey ensure that all is well. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Sergeant Richard Robichaud and Nicole Whelan prepare a shipment of medical supplies. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Corporal Michaella Wills checks medical supplies against a list of contents. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Much of warehouse is used for packing and shipping. The conveyer belt and balance is the same used from 63 years ago. Tara Palango, Corporal Jason Casey, Lieutenant (Navy) Julie Nadeau and Corporal Cheryl Carello pack supplies into boxes that will be sent overseas.(Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Master Corporal Chris Corbette examines a piece of equipment as part of his training. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Corporal Cheryl Carello, Sergeant Krista Fraser, Petty Officer Second Class Michael Eis and Master Corporal Jean-François Mahé received boxes at Central Medical Equipment Depot (CMED) and helped unload them with a forklift to the warehouse area. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
Lieutenant (Navy) Julie Nadeau, a Customer Service Officer, checks completed kits against a list of content to ensure that nothing has been omitted. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)
CAF’s Largest Pharmacy turns 110
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday, December 7, 2017
Central Medical Equipment Depot (CMED) in Petawawa is the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) largest pharmacy warehouse.
CMED is now 110 years old and has been serving the military with as much care and dedication as when its doors first opened. But many people are still unaware of the sheer scope and magnitude of this vital unit.
Lieutenant Commander (Navy) Jody McArel, the Commanding Officer of CMED, invited the Petawawa Post to its warehouse, where pharmacists, technicians and other professionals work on Montgomery Road.
It is the only medical depot that provides supplies directly to deployed operations and is the oldest regular force medical unit in the CAF.
They are critical to the wellbeing of the troops and to the ever-increasing operational tempo of Garrison Petawawa and the Army as a whole. They deal with an inventory worth approx $40 million and Captain Leslie Fillmore estimates that the warehouse is as big as the Kanata Costco, about 80,000 square feet.
There is also a detachment in Trenton, which is roughly 11,000 square feet. When CMED, at the time called 1 Central Medical Equipment Depot, was located in Plouffe Park in Ottawa, it handled about $4.75 million worth of stock. Adjusted for inflation, this is more or less on par with current value.
Shipping out medication and supplies is expensive work. CMED is slowly phasing out the old medical panniers, which were used in 1954, in favour of Pelican cases that range from $300 to $500 depending on size. The unit also uses special temperature controlling crates called Credo Cubes that range from $800 to over $8,000 for the half stack pallet sized Cube. These control internal temperatures, maintaining the specific drug required temperatures from -25 to 20 degrees Celsius in any climate.
Capt Fillmore explained that CMED supplies about 1,200 different types of medications to the different bases across Canada as well as to soldiers abroad. They are the unit that ensures medical kits and end users are well supplied with everything, including prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs, vaccines of all types, IV solutions, unlicensed drugs - called Surgeon General Items which requires special approval from the Surgeon General to issue - oral, injectable, topical and suppositories. They also have enough medical supplies including personal protective equipment (PPE), to effectively respond to a CAF pandemic. As well, they have instruments, medical/dental equipment and supplies, orthopedic, laboratory and diagnostic imaging supplies.
There are several sections to CMED including the HQs, Customer Service, Field Medical Equipment (FME), Warehouse, Receipt, Traffic and Biomedical Electronic Technologist (BMET), each section is under the supervision of a sergeant and ultimately a pharmacy officer.
All of this undertaken by 56 personnel. This includes 31 military and 15 civilians in Petawawa as well as seven military and three civilians in the Trenton Detachment. It can actually be very dizzying walking into CMED’s warehouse. There are medical supplies stacked up to 30 feet high over the expanse of a city block.
As requests come in from different military units nation-wide and overseas, it quickly becomes apparent how important stock control is. Since their mission is to provide ‘Health Care Supply and Equipment Maintenance and Repair Support’ to all entitled units and elements of the CAF, they focus their main efforts on building and providing medical readiness kits as well as performing preventive maintenance and repair of medical equipment necessary to provide medical care in support of CAF missions.
“Interdepartmental coordination is also an integral part of CMED’s daily Operation,” said Capt Fillmore. “This ensures safe delivery of time and temperature-sensitive medications and products, medical equipment and kits to the end users.” Personnel also work in collaboration with other federal health agencies like the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada.
CMED ensures that the military’s strategic inventory of medical countermeasures, Surgeon General restricted items and Pandemic Influenza stockpile meets the mandate in case of nation-wide medical emergency. “CMED’s responsibility is the strategic safekeeping and delivery of these supplies, ensuring the safety and quality of the products are maintained,” said Capt Fillmore.
Things have greatly changed over the years since this massive warehouse was established more than a century ago. Organized on Nov. 29, 1907 as No. 10 Detachment Permanent Army Medical Corps (PAMC) in Ottawa, it has been reorganized, re-designated and relocated between 1909 and 1952 until it was redesignated 1 Central Medical Equipment Depot. On Sept. 30, 1960, it was re-located to Petawawa and given its final name six years later. “Duties have seen a change of focus from mass stocking and resupplying all medical clinics through regional depots, to supporting operations directly,” said Capt Fillmore.
CMED used to have 10 or more pharmacists to do a job that is now done by three. Drugs also used to be manufactured on location, but now those supplies are ordered through civilian suppliers. They use 2 Service Battalion personnel instead of their own to make shipping crates and pallets. “CMED does just-in-time delivery, focusing on supporting operations directly,” said Capt Fillmore. “CAF Medical Clinics can order directly from those same civilian organizations that CMED uses and only go through CMED when they need an entire kit built.”
The military as a whole has also reduced its pharmacy, going from 1 Central Medical Equipment Depot and six regional depots with hundreds of personnel under its command to the current unit of CMED and its detachment in Trenton, which is there to support the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), Major Air Disaster (MAJAID) and Noncombatant Evacuation Operations (NEO).
CMED used to have a training wing but no longer and the only medical warehouse training done is through the Basic Pharmacy Officer Course which is managed by the Canadian Forces Health Service Training Centre in Borden, but takes place at CMED in Petawawa once a year for a two week period.
“When CMED no longer needed hundreds of personnel under its direct command, there was no longer a need for a specialized training wing,” said Capt Fillmore. “Now normal supply technicians, medical technicians and traffic technicians get on the job training on how to run a Medical Supply Depot.”