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South Shore Hospital Worker Spots Shipment Of Counterfeit N95 Masks

WEYMOUTH (CBS) - A worker at South Shore Hospital is being credited with spotting a shipment of counterfeit N95 medical masks meant for frontline workers.

Barry O'Shaughnessy, the manager of procurement of South Shore Health in Weymouth, is responsible for ordering PPE for hospital workers. He says demand for the surgical masks over the past several months made it difficult to keep a sufficient supply on hand, so this past January he went outside of the hospital's normal supplier in search of masks.

"As usage volume went up here at the hospital, what we were allocated was remaining the same," says O'Shaughnessy. "We had to search outside the normal supply chain."

That meant placing an order with a third-party company based out of New Jersey that claimed to have a supply of 3M masks. O'Shaughnessy ordered 30,000, with one exception.

James "Barry" O'Shaughnessy
Barry O'Shaughnessy holds a counterfeit mask and a real mask (Image credit South Shore Health)

"I said, 'I'm going to have to verify that these are real… before I pay you.' The gentleman said, 'that's fine.'"

When the boxes of surgical masks arrived at South Shore Health, O'Shaughnessy says he noticed something was different about the masks, and how they were packaged.

"When I was inspecting the shipping boxes," O'Shaughnessy says, "I noticed the 3M label was in a different position on the exterior shipping box."

At that point, his gut told him something was off.

He had been working with 3M to make sure the shipment was safe, and when he sent photos of the masks and their boxes, a company representative determined they were counterfeit.

O'Shaughnessy says he filed a fraud report with 3M, and then The Department of Homeland Security seized the masks and is investigating. "They said they had been working on a number of cases like this," O'Shaughnessy says. "You'd be surprised how much of this is going on."

O'Shaughnessy would not name the supplier who shipped the fake masks, only that he will let Homeland Security handle that part. "I was happy to get them out of the supply chain because if you didn't go through the extent to verify them, they could end up on your frontline workers' faces," O'Shaughnessy said.

Now that coronavirus numbers are improving, O'Shaughnessy says the hospital is doing much better with mask supply, as well as other PPE.

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