39 million masks for California hospitals that never materialized spark federal investigation

California
An employee from an L.A.-based shoe company makes masks to be donated to hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic on March 31, 2020, in Culver City, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

An employee from an L.A.-based shoe company makes masks to be donated to hospitals amid the coronavirus pandemic on March 31, 2020, in Culver City, California. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

They had seemingly done the impossible. The union that represents healthcare workers in California announced it had arranged the purchase of 39 million N95 masks for hospitals and government agencies that badly need the protective equipment.

Among the intended recipients was Kaiser Permanente, which placed orders for 6 million masks.

A week later, none of those masks have materialized, and Kaiser is cooperating with a federal fraud investigation into the deal, a spokesman for the health plan confirmed.

There is no indication that the union is a target of the investigation, and the exact reasons why the masks didn’t come through remain unclear. But the failed arrangement marks the latest in a smoke-and-mirrors marketplace for equipment in short supply as hospitals and other healthcare facilities in California and beyond prepare for an onslaught of COVID-19 patients.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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