GRAND RAPIDS (WOOD) — A West Michigan health care coalition has received a small shipment of medical equipment from the Strategic National Stockpile to help protect doctors, nurses and others from COVID-19.

It’s the first time since the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 that the Region 6 Healthcare Coalition has tapped into that federal stockpile.

The coalition said it received 15,000 N95 masks, 48,000 surgical masks, 1,900 face shields and 700 gowns. It says it has already dispersed most of them.

The N95 mask is considered crucial because its seal prevents smaller particles from getting through.

“We didn’t receive a lot of everything, to be honest,” Region 6 Medical Director Dr. Jerry Evans said. “It should help get people through until the next shipment comes in.”

That could take several weeks, he said.

The coalition gave out the limited supplies to hospitals and other care facilities in the 13 counties it covers in West Michigan. They include 22 acute-care hospitals, free-standing emergency rooms, nursing homes, doctors’ offices, dialysis centers and urgent care centers.

“We have enough we can distribute as best we can and distribute it to different areas,” Evans said. “We’re trying to be as fair as we can to people who need them.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Strategic National Stockpile is the nation’s biggest supply of medical equipment.

But, as the Associated Press reported, the stockpile isn’t designed as a long-term solution to monumental demand, and some state officials are complaining that the deliveries are falling far short of what’s needed or include expired items.

The federal government created the Strategic National Stockpile in 1999 to prepare for bombings and biological, chemical and nuclear attacks. It maintains caches of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and vaccines in secret locations around the nation. It has never confronted anything on the scale of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Region 6 Healthcare Coalition covers Clare, Ionia, Isabella, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newago, Oceana, Osceola and Ottawa counties.

News 8 reached out to Mercy Health and Spectrum Health. In a statement, Mercy Health wrote:

“The safety of our staff and patients is our top priority.  We are deeply committed to providing the appropriate level of personal protective equipment (PPE) for all of our colleagues, and continue to work daily with local and state government agencies to secure additional PPE as we navigate a national supply challenge.  To be good stewards of our resources, we purposefully ordered re-usable PPE, including shields and gowns, to avoid some of the supply issues other countries previously faced when dealing with this outbreak.”

In a statement, Spectrum Health said:

“There is currently a national shortage of some materials but the CDC, along with national and state agencies, are aware of them and actively involved in resolving them. Spectrum Health is following CDC guidelines for acceptable alternatives. Supplies are continually prioritized based on the treatment and care needs of our patients. We are working to manage this ever-changing situation.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.