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COVID-19: B.C. health minister responds to reports of people stealing masks from hospitals

Click to play video 'Vancouver hospitals report theft of medical supplies, masks and hand sanitizer' Vancouver hospitals report theft of medical supplies, masks and hand sanitizer
With fears growing about the spread of COVID-19, hospital staff are telling Global News they're seeing an increase in thefts of medical supplies, with face masks being the top target. Jill Bennett reports – Mar 5, 2020

As reports continue of people stockpiling food, toilet paper and hand sanitizer due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there are now concerns about unscrupulous people trying to steal supplies from hospitals.

Sources tell Global News that at at least two hospitals — St. Paul’s and B.C. Children’s hospital — workers have had to step in and stop people from trying to steal boxes of masks.

READ MORE: B.C. identifies 8 new COVID-19 cases, one through community contact

“There have been some examples of that. I don’t believe it’s widespread,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix, Thursday.

“Obviously it’s something we condemn and would take action against.”

Click to play video 'Major jump in COVID-19 cases in B.C., including first case of community transmission' Major jump in COVID-19 cases in B.C., including first case of community transmission
Major jump in COVID-19 cases in B.C., including first case of community transmission – Mar 5, 2020

B.C. Nurses’ Union president Christine Sorensen said she’s not sure people are stealing, but said supplies are definitely being drained quickly.

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She said fear has more and more people requesting masks in health care facilities, even when they don’t need them.

READ MORE: Demand for face masks causes concern among Canadian health-care workers

“What they’ve done is place them in areas where they are secure,” said Sorensen.

“Supplies are going down quickly, need to be replenished frequently, so we’re asking the public to be aware of why these things are there, leave them in place in the hospital, please don’t take them and take them home.”

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B.C.’s top doctor warns of spring break travel risk during COVID-19 outbreak – Mar 5, 2020

Sorensen said surgical masks are not effective at preventing COVID-19 transmission.

But she said she is concerned about the supply of things such as N95 respirator masks, which nurses need in order to ensure they are safe in the workplace.

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“Those masks need to be available for the healthcare staff,” she said.

Dix said the province is preparing to make a detailed technical presentation on its preparations for a possible pandemic on Friday.

He said the province has been talking with the other provinces and the federal government to ensure B.C.’s “supply chain for medical supplies is not just intact, but enhanced.”

-With files from Jill Bennett