N95 masks have become one of the most sought after medical supplies around the world due to COVID-19. As a result of the virus’s rapid spread, the masks have become increasingly scarce, and many healthcare systems have been unable to secure enough for their current influx of patients.  Some companies are stepping up to help, while others are taking advantage of the shortage, and the government is addressing the issues. 

For example, Home Depot has started sending its N95 masks to healthcare providers (Vigdor, 2020). The government has implemented the Defense Production Act, which allows them significantly more control over industrial production during crises (Alvarez, Fox, & LeBlanc, 2020). While both acts are necessary in preventing a devastating and costly shortage of N95 masks, these types of steps alone may not be enough to supply the medical field with the critical supplies (Groll, 2020). What is clear is that the demand for these masks will continue to rise while, at the moment, supplies appear to be dwindling. 

Unfortunately, as a consequence of the high demand and low supply, there are some companies and individuals attempting to take advantage of the situation. One New York pharmacist allegedly hoarded masks and other supplies and sold said supplies at inflated prices (Katersky & Deliso, 2020). This individual was stopped and is currently under investigation, but there are many more individuals like him across the country who are attempting to profit financially from scarce devices like the N95 masks.

Another example of exploitation occurred in California, when scam artists attempted to use a healthcare union to broker the sales of “39 million” N95 masks (Campbell, 2020). The union publicly announced that they had connections to a large supply of masks and were looking to help health systems. Law enforcement saw the announcement and began an investigation based on the outrageous number of masks. They were particularly suspicious because the seller claimed the masks were from 3M, but in reality, 3M reported to have only produced “20 million N95 masks in all of 2019” (Campbell, 2020). The substantial difference between these two numbers was one of the primary reasons for launching the investigation. 

The federal task force revealed that the union was working with an individual in Pennsylvania, who was acting as the middleman for two companies in Australia and Kuwait. This middleman claimed he did not know that the masks he attempted to sell were fraudulent. The two foreign entities now face serious charges from the U.S. government. 

Despite the desperate need for masks in the United States, health systems and hospitals should act cautiously and continue to validate the inventory source when conducting business with new companies.  GreenLight Medical has intelligent ways for organizations to source medical supplies, and each manufacturer is validated. Request more information to see if GreenLight Medical could help you with your hospital procurement needs.

References

Alvarez, P., Fox, L., & LeBlanc, P. (2020, March 24). What is the Defense Production Act? Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/24/politics/defense-production-act-coronavirus/index.html

Campbell, J. (2020, April 14). Feds uncover an alleged scheme to fraudulently sell 39 million N95 respirator masks to U.S. hospitals. Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/14/us/coronavirus-mask-scam-hospitals-seiu-california-trnd/index.html

Groll, E. (2020, April 6). The Defense Production Act Won’t Fix America’s N95 Face Mask Shortage. Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/story/defense-production-act-n95-masks-shortage-covid-19/

Katersky, A., & Deliso, M. (2020, April 13). Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/US/york-pharmacist-investigation-alleged-ppe-hoarding-price-gouging/story?id=70122188

Vigdor, N. (2020, April 2). Home Depot Halts Sales of N95 Masks Amid Shortage, Company Says. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/01/business/n95-face-masks-home-depot-virus.html