‘A Little Surreal': Mass. Doctor's Quest to Acquire PPE for Hospital Caught Attention of FBI

Dr. Andrew Artenstein of Baystate Health went to a warehouse in the Mid-Atlantic to help inspect and retrieve KN95 and 3-ply medical masks, but unexpected hurdles came from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security

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The quest to secure PPE for healthcare workers has seemed like a Herculean task lately.

So when Baystate Health in Springfield, Massachusetts, got a lead on half a million KN95 and 3-ply medical masks a couple weeks ago, the system's chief physician executive, Dr. Andrew Artenstein, personally headed to a warehouse in the Mid-Atlantic region to help inspect and bring back the supplies.

"There's so many leads that have disappeared or dissolved at the last minute," said Artenstein.

Then came a surprising unexpected hurdle.

"When we got there, everything was going smoothly, according to what we had expected, and the FBI ended up showing up," Artenstein said.

Fearing they would lose the PPE at the last minute, Artenstein said they did everything they could to verify for the FBI agents that these masks were not going to be sold on the black market, but instead headed to hospitals in dire need of these supplies.

"Their job was to make sure that it wasn't going to be sidetracked to any middle men or resellers or anywhere like that, which, in retrospect, is actually a good thing," he said.

But even as they loaded the pallets of PPE onto tractor-trailers disguised as food supply trucks for the trek back to Massachusetts, they learned the Department of Homeland Security was still considering redirecting the masks.

It wasn't until they were able to get help from local members of Congress that the PPE seizure was avoided.

"It was highly unusual, a little surreal, but at the end of the day, it's what you have to do," said Artenstein.

The doctor says after all this, these supplies will likely only last the Baystate Health care system a few months.

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