Essential protective gear needed in the fight against Covid-19 is going missing from hospitals, prompting an urgent plea from one union for people to stop taking it.
It is suspected the culprits are hospital staff and that some of the gear may be onsold for profit.
The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists, the union for senior doctors, made the plea this morning for people to refrain from taking hospital supplies of personal protective equipment [PPE].
"Doctors are being told they have to wear their own clothes because there aren't enough scrubs to change into, putting them and those they come into contact with at higher risk of infection," ASMS chief executive Sarah Dalton said.
"The Prime Minister has asked us to be kind. Nicking masks and hand sanitiser is clearly not part of the lockdown plan."
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Dalton said doctors at several district health boards had raised concerns that essential equipment needed to fight Covid-19 was going missing.
And she said it's not just the odd mask being taken.
"We've had reports of wholesale uplifts of things like scrubs, masks and hand sanitiser.
"Supplies of PPE are vital during this Covid-19 crisis and senior doctors say it's putting the health and safety of all frontline health workers at risk."
One hospital has reportedly been forced to put sanitiser supplies in a locked office, while one DHB has emailed staff asking them not to take PPE supplies home or hoard them for personal use.
Dalton said while some people may be taking items out of fear, there have been suggestions that PPE is being taken home to families, or even sold for profit.
"Having supplies go missing is adding to the anxiety that there isn't enough PPE to go around," she said.
Dalton said although it was not clear exactly who was taking the supplies, her main priority was to ensure it stopped.
"Whoever you are just don't do it. This is clearly super unhelpful and access to appropriate PPE is one of the biggest stressors for senior doctors.
"Depending on the work you're doing and who you are treating and where you are you need different levels of protective equipment and ensuring people have ready access to whatever they need at the right time, is critical."
Complaints last week that Middlemore Hospital did not have hand sanitiser for visitors prompted Counties Manukau Health to respond saying it had enough supplies and was in the process of sourcing more.
The call comes days after desperate midwives asked for donations of PPE on social media and Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield addressed concerns over a lack of PPE yesterday.
Earlier this week the Herald reported midwives were asking other industries that use masks and other PPE to donate or sell the gear to them while they don't need them in lockdown.
Yesterday Bloomfield said supplies of PPE were plentiful and steady and distribution was being made "rock solid".