SPRINGFIELD, MASS. (WHDH) - A nationwide shortage of personal protective equipment had the head of a Springfield health center hunting for life-protecting gear — only to see it nearly taken away by federal officials.

Dr. Andrew Artenstein, chief physician executive of Baystate Health, said his organization tracked down KN95 masks — the Chinese-made N95 — after a “convoluted trip.”

But because the short supply of PPE has created a black market, federal officials showed up when Artenstein was making the purchase.

“But while we were doing that FBI agents showed up and apparently they were fanned out across parts of the U.S. to ensure that they told us this material was going to hospitals or first responders,” Artenstein said.

Even after his credentials were vetted, Homeland Security came close to seizing the equipment for federal use, and only pulled back after phone calls from a member of Congress. But finally, the much-needed equipment made its way to Western Mass.

“Our 12-thousand team members at Baystate Health take care of these patients and need that equipment to stay safe and feel protected. It’s our obligation to get that,” Artenstein said. “These are basic tools to do your job when you care for sick patients with communicable illness. So we were able to do that but it was quite a long storied adventure as you know and it’s a very serious matter.”

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