Baystate Health exec questioned by FBI while picking up medical supplies

The chief physician executive at Springfield, Mass.-based Baystate Health, Andrew Artenstein, MD, was questioned by FBI agents while trying to pick up medical supplies to protect his hospital staff against COVID-19, he wrote in a note published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Though he usually doesn't get involved at high levels of his health system's supply chain, Dr. Artenstein said he had to because of the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

When he was questioned, Dr. Artenstein said he was inspecting a big shipment of respirators and face masks. The shipment was five times more than what Baystate would normally pay, but he said it was the cheapest option the health system could find. 

Dr. Artenstein said he and four of his team members were inspecting the shipment before bringing it back to the hospital when two FBI agents showed up and began asking questions.

The agents asked Dr. Artenstein for his credentials and questioned what the supplies were going to be used for. Once he convinced the agents that the supplies would not be resold and weren't going on the black market, the agents let him and his team leave with the supplies. 

But Dr. Artenstein said he was told the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was still considering redirecting the shipment. 

Dr. Artenstein said he had to make some quick calls to congressional representatives to prevent the government from redirecting the supplies. 

The FBI told The Boston Globe that it is working "to ensure PPE is not being unlawfully distributed or hoarded." 

"Did I foresee, as a health system leader working in a rich, highly developed country with state-of-the-art science and technology and incredible talent, that my organization would ever be faced with such a set of circumstances? Of course not," Dr. Artenstein wrote. 

Read the full note here


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