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Queensland Health staff warned over COVID-19 related PPE theft and urged to dob in offenders

ABC NEWS logo ABC NEWS 27/03/2020 Marian Faa and Adam Stephen

Staff in Queensland hospitals are being threatened with legal action if they're caught stealing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks for personal use.

An email sent to Townsville Hospital employees and leaked to the ABC said thefts of PPE were continuing amid a global shortage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

© ABC News "As well as compromising the safe care of our patients, anyone stealing PPE is breaking the law," the email stated.

"If you do see anyone stealing PPE, it is your obligation to report them to your manager so that further action can be taken." 

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Nurses' Professional Association of Queensland president Phill Tsingos said nurses at the hospital were being told to write their names on face masks and reuse them.

"And when they use [the mask] between patients [they're told to] put it in a brown paper bag and then take it out for the next person and put it back on their face," he said.

Managers 'scrutinising' staff PPE use

Mr Tsingos, whose organisation represents 5,000 nurses in Queensland, said health workers felt unsafe.

"The virus just won't know the outside of a mask to the inside," he said.

"They will put that mask back on their face and then when [he or] she breathes in, she'll breathe in whatever contaminants on the inside."

Mr Tsingos said nurses felt like they were being put on the front line of a war without weapons.

"The staff ... are not feeling like they're allowed to use the correct PPE all the time," he said.

"They feel like the managers are scrutinising every time they've got to wear a pair of gloves or a mask."

Toilet paper supplies 'disappearing'

A memo from Cairns Hospital's director of pharmacy to staff said statewide supplies of CUTAN, a high-grade disinfectant, were at critical levels and could no longer be used to clean work surfaces.

It also outlined strict protocols for receiving and storing CUTAN, suggesting there were concerns about supplies being stolen.

"It is highly recommended that access to excess stock is restricted and stored in a secure area on the ward ... and routine stocktakes should be undertaken," the memo said.

Toilet paper has gone missing from Cairns Hospital amenities, prompting a decision not to leave spare stock inside bathrooms.

Queensland Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford confirmed PPE was being stolen from hospitals but denied there was a shortage.

"Stocks have actually increased since the beginning of [the pandemic]," Mr Crawford said.

"Queensland Health is trying to make sure there is enough there to go around for everyone for a very, very long time, at least another six months, but we are informed that the stockpiles are very very flush."

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