An outpatient nurse at Butterworth Hospital in the Eastern Cape has been arrested after he was allegedly caught stealing four boxes full of face masks.
The suspect was allegedly caught in the act and tried to flee the scene, but security personnel apprehended him after he jumped the fence.
Eastern Cape health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the department condemns acts of criminality.
“The department welcomes the arrest and would like to call on the criminal justice system to make an example of the nurse by sentencing him to a hefty prison sentence that would serve as a deterrent to other would-be thieves targeting clinics and hospitals,” Kupelo said.
Police have opened a criminal investigation following the arrest and the health department was expected to launch internal disciplinary processes against the nurse.
“Stealing is already a crime but the fact that Covid-19 has been declared as a global pandemic means the nurse should face the full might of the law,” Kupelo said in a statement.
The department added that it remained committed to working with law enforcement officials and to implementing its human resources policy to rid healthcare institutions of officials disguised as health professionals.
“We would like to reiterate that our health professionals are ready to deal with the outbreak. The theft of the face masks and hand sanitisers place doctors, nurses and patients at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus,” the statement read.
Members of the public have been urged to work with government to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Kupelo also called on the public to continue with preventative measures, like practising personal hygiene by washing their hands using soap or hand sanitiser and social distance.
Kupelo added that people should not panic.