Tufton condemns mask thieves as cops raid funeral home
As Jamaica grapples with the incidence of COVID-19 locally, Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has castigated cheats who have been stealing masks and other supplies from hospitals and reselling them for profit.
While addressing a meeting of business stakeholders at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James yesterday, Tufton warned that such individuals will face the full force of the law if they are identified.
“I have seen in the marketplaces, in recent days, persons who are selling masks, and some of those masks look very much like the masks that the hospitals have in storage to be used in the public sector,” he said.
“If we identify any individual who is using this opportunity to steal public property and then selling it for profit. It is immoral and illegal and we’ll use the law to penalise those persons.”
“I have had reports that there is a lot of misplacement of our own supplies. It speaks to our own internal arrangements, and I’ve met and spoken with the management and administrators of our public health infrastructure to tighten up that management so that we can avoid the stealing of our supplies that taxpayers pay for to be used for taxpayers’ interest,” Tufton added.
His warning came hours before 25 cases of gloves and masks suspected of being stolen from Kingston Public Hospital were seized by the Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime (C-TOC) arm of the Jamaica Constabulary Force yesterday.
Tufton said there were nearly 40 cases.
Senior Superintendent of Police Stephanie Lindsay confirmed that the raid took place at Brown’s Funeral Home located at 51-55 North Street in Kingston.
Lindsay, head of the constabulary communications arm, told The Gleaner that the raid took place between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
South East Regional Health Authority Chairman Wentworth Charles said the funeral home is one of the hospital’s contractors.
“We are very concerned about the alleged theft of these protective equipment that are required for COVID-19. We have acquired a large quantity and put it into storage and we are alarmed that these items are being sold and sometimes, on the streets,” Charles said.
Charles said that the boxes were marked “KPH, Victoria Jubilee, Accident and Emergency, and Operating Theatre” and would have been taken from storerooms.
“It is most unfortunate that persons would engage in this type of dishonest behaviour, pilfering the goods that are put in storage,” he said.
Charles accused internal staff of being involved in the alleged theft and pledged to “strengthen our internal security both with security cameras and otherwise”.