An Eastern Cape health worker was arrested at Frontier Hospital in Komani on Saturday for allegedly stealing personal protective equipment (PPE).
Eastern Cape health department spokesperson Sizwe Kupelo said the worker was caught by security guards on Saturday trying to leave with eight boxes filled with the life-saving equipment.
Kupelo said the suspect was one of hundreds of people the provincial government had roped in to help fight the spread of Covid-19.
“However, instead of helping the department and, by extension, every Eastern Cape resident, the worker was caught stealing the life-saving PPE. The vigilant security guards searched the worker and found the box full of PPE as he was about to leave the hospital,” said Kupelo.
He said the worker was detained by security officers before police were called to arrest him.
Eastern Cape Health MEC Sindiswa Gomba called on the criminal justice system to make an example of the arrested man.
“Had it not been for the vigilance of the security guard, the worker would have succeeded in stealing the PPE. We condemn such thievery with the contempt it deserves. By stealing the PPE, the worker was leaving frontline workers like doctors and doctors defenceless against this vicious virus that has already killed 8 662 people in the Eastern Cape,” Gomba said.
“The department has stocked enough PPE and we have also received generous donations from organisations and individuals as we all work together to stop the spread of coronavirus. Having workers steal the very same PPE meant to protect them flies in the face of saving lives and exposes them to the virus. When workers steal the PPE, that may result in complaints of a shortage of the PPE, something we have seen.”
The MEC called on people to continue playing their role in the fight against Covid-19, by adhering to regulations.
“One life lost is one too many. This is why we are calling on the justice system to impose a harsh sentence if found guilty, so as to deter other would-be thieves of PPE. Stealing PPE is tantamount to murder, so our courts must not be lenient to people who commit such atrocious crimes.”
Gomba also reminded the public to adhere to Covid-19 protocols, which include practicing good personal hygiene, wearing a mask in public and keeping a distance of two metres from others.
The worker was expected to appear in court soon, said Kupelo.