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West Suffolk Hospital urges visitors to wear own face coverings and respect supplies after man takes box of masks

Visitors to West Suffolk Hospital are being urged to wear their own face coverings and show respect for hospital supplies after a man made off with a box of masks from an outpatient area.

Mark Manning, head of nursing for medicine at the Bury St Edmunds hospital, said the man parked outside the hospital, went into an outpatient area, took one of the boxes which usually contain 50 masks and drove off.

The incident was two or three days after face masks and coverings were made compulsory for all NHS hospital staff and visitors, and the hospital is encouraging people to act responsibly when the rules apply to shops and supermarkets from July 24.

Mark Manning, head of nursing for medicine at West Suffolk Hospital
Mark Manning, head of nursing for medicine at West Suffolk Hospital

“If somebody does not have a face covering or mask as they come in, then of course we’re going to provide them with one because we want them to able to attend their appointment, come and see their loved one in a safe manner,” Mr Manning said.

“But where possible we want them to provide their own face covering to wear it from entry to the hospital to the moment they leave.”

He cited another incident where a man took several masks from a dispenser and when challenged was ‘not particularly polite’ to a member of staff.

“We’ve always had the equipment we’ve needed to care for our patients,” Mr Manning said.

“With every member of staff wearing a mask, that has put a massive demand on and if we are having episodes we will go through these masks very quickly and it’s just trying to get the public to work with us to support us where they can.

“Yes we’re a hospital and yes we have some different masks here but it’s really important we keep the stocks of those for when we really need it to care for those sick people, to keep them safe and to keep our staff safe.”

He said police were alerted to the man who took the box of masks and he was given a warning.

The hospital has installed mask dispensers at the main entrances and exits.

“We would like to think that common sense and community spirit will prevail and people will just take the mask they need for that visit and in the main most people have done that,” he said. “It’s just that small group that are making it a challenge and making an already difficult job for some of our staff that little bit more difficult.”

The hospital is running a test and trace system for visitors and patients should they be exposed to coronavirus.

Following concerns nationally about scams, Mr Manning has asked people to be ‘mindful’ as they should not be asked to provide passwords, bank account details and pins.

As of Monday at noon, the hospital’s trust had admitted 254 coronavirus patients and discharged 137 since the outbreak began. There have been 79 deaths.

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