New mothers are going without because of a severe shortage of breast pumps at the Hawke's Bay Hospital.

The Special Care Baby Unit once had a full supply of the pumps available for breastfeeding mothers but they were now down to just four.

Hawke's Bay District Health Board midwifery director Julie Arthur said equipment not being returned was an ongoing problem for the board.

"It is a significant loss, as these pumps cost $3500 each," Ms Arthur said.


They were loaned or hired out, depending on the circumstances.

"Unfortunately many people who take them from the hospital don't return them and when it comes time to track them down, we find people are either impossible to get hold of or have moved from their known address.

"At times it could be classed as theft, rather than negligence," Ms Arthur said.

The hospital has even had breast pumps returned from second-hand shops when business owners have seen the board's markings on the product.

Breast pumps were listed as one of the items taken from district health board premises in the past five years.

Statistics obtained under the Official Information Act revealed there were 66 reported thefts from the board.

Laptops, wallets and wheelchairs had also been taken.

Frustration was growing among hospital staff about the high number of wheelchairs taken.

Wheelchairs cost $800 to $1000, and the board's patient care support services manager, Sally Robertshawe, said she was disappointed half of the wheelchairs were missing.

"Those removing them need to have a good think about their actions," Ms Robertshawe said.

CCTV footage showing a young father loading his belongings on to a wheelchair before taking it from the hospital was a typical illustration of people's disregard for hospital property, security manager Rob Thorpe said.

During a two month amnesty just three of more than 30 missing wheelchairs had been returned. The numbers missing reflect 50 per cent of the hospital's fleet.

Ms Robertshawe said those taking the wheelchairs might one day find that they or a relative needs one.

"Keeping a wheelchair that you don't need is only increasing stress on patients and staff - creating a significant waste of our orderlies' time."

While the amnesty was on, there would be no questions asked if a wheelchair was returned to the main entrance of the hospital.

- If you have a wheelchair or a breast pump with Hawke's Bay District Health Board stamped on it, please phone 06 878 8109 and ask for the call centre. Your address and phone number will be noted for collection purposes only.