‘AN INCREDIBLY SAD CASE’: Thousands of respiratory masks donated by Store Norske to Trømsø hospital were pirated copies, mistakenly used by 150-200 staff in COVID-19 unit


Thousands of respiratory masks put into storage by Store Norske because they were “not quite” like those previously ordered that were subsequently donated to a Tromsø hospital three weeks ago – with the warning their quality was note certain – were mistakenly used by about 150-200 health care staff at the hospital working mostly in a newly established coronavirus intensive care unit, officials confirmed this week.

The masks were pirated copies made by a Chinese company and sold as manufactured by 3M, according to tests conducted by Norwegian Defense Research Institute. The employees are now being tested every other day and all were negative during the most recent test on Wednesday, according to the hospital, which also states it does not believe any patients were put in danger.


Boxes of respiratory masks donated to a Tromsø hospital by Store Norske are marked with green crosses before shipping because the mining company was uncertain of their quality. The masks, which differed in appearance than genuine 3M masks previous received from the supplier, turned out to be pirated copies from China. Photo by Per Nilsen / Store Norske.

Media reports earlier this week stated the hospital realized the masks were faulty and apparently had been used by staff. While 3M masks are designed to filter at least 95 percent of particles in the ai, a preliminary test conducted the hospital showed the pirated masks don’t work as well.

“”It’s an incredibly sad case,” Grethe Andersen, the university’s operations and property manager, told Verdens Gang in a story published Monday. “We are afraid that the masks do not protect well enough against the virus.”

On Wednesday, NRK reported the results of the defense institute tests and additional details about the use of the faulty masks.

“3M has confirmed that it is not their masks,” Andersen told the news agency. “They could quickly conclude this.”

The masks, about 6,000 of which were received from Store Norske, should have been set aside immediately after being delivered until their quality were determined in keeping with hospital policy, she said. But it turns out about 700 of the masks were used by the employees now being tested.

“I have not heard that anything like this has ever happened at UNN,” Andersen told NRK.

Anita Schumacher, the hospital’s director, told NRK they do not believe the situation poses any risk to patients.

“But when it comes to our employees, it creates uncertainty when we can’t say how much protection the masks have provided,” she said.

The pirated masks have been replaced with certified ones, and staff will continue being tested while continuing to work, she said.

The hospital has received masks from ten private suppliers so far, in addition to other equipment. While hospital officials said such donations are welcome, especially during shortages caused by crisis, all such items are supposed to be set aside until it is determined they meet national quality control standards.