Healthcare staff warned over taking of face masks from Dublin hospital

St James’s ‘reminds’ workers of risk to patients over ‘unauthorised removal’ of masks

Staff at St James’s Hospital in Dublin were warned by management that the taking of protective masks by staff, patients or the public would pose risks to healthcare workers and patients.

The notice was sent to the hospital’s staff in recent days in order to protect supplies of personal protective equipment, including face masks, to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The hospital said staff were “reminded that it is vital that PPE (personal protective equipment) including face masks are available for staff and patients”.

Staff were told that “any unauthorised removal of PPE from the hospital by staff, patients or the public, places our colleagues and our patients at risk”.

There are about 4,000 staff based at the hospital.

A spokeswoman for the Dublin Midlands Hospital group, which includes St James’s, did not address the reason why staff received the communication.

It emerged on Monday that thousands of protective masks were stolen from St Luke's, the cancer hospital in Rathgar, south Dublin – part of the same hospital group – at the end of last month, putting some of the "most vulnerable" patients in the health system at risk.

Gardaí are investigating the theft, which took place between February 27th and 28th.

St Luke’s operates a radiation oncology centre at St James’s Hospital.

‘Volatile market’

The HSE told The Irish Times that it had an “adequate stock of critical supplies all across the country” despite “the challenges of a volatile market”.

The health service has said it has made a significant investment, more than €27 million to date, on a range of products, including protective equipment.

More than four million masks, both surgical and respiratory, have been secured by the health service and more than €20 million has been invested in protective equipment, the HSE said.

More than 3,500 “PPE packs” have been distributed to GPs, public health departments and primary care centres, according to the health service.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent