Hand gel used to stop the norovirus sweeping through Doncaster hospitals has become the target of thieves.
Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust chiefs are staggered that some visitors are walking out with the essential aid to hygiene.
Hospital staff are asking their colleagues, patients, and visitors to be on their guard for thefts of antibacterial gel, which contains alcohol so that it is quick drying.
There have been a number of reports of the gel being stolen from wards and departments – and a man ran away when approached on a ward at Bassetlaw Hospital.
Security staff have been reviewing CCTV recordings and staff have been advised on how to step up security.
Hilary Bond, director of nursing and quality, said: “Staff have made tremendous efforts to contain the spread of norovirus - and use of the hand gel is an important part of encouraging better hand hygiene.
“So it’s really disappointing that people want to steal the very thing that’s helping to combat infections.
“We have asked staff to be vigilant - and if patients or members of the public see suspicious behaviour, please report it.
“Hand gel is at every bedside across the Trust’s hospitals to reduce the risk of infection and there are larger dispensers at entrances to the hospitals and wards.”
The thefts come at a time when staff are battling to keep norovirus, which causes seasonal sickness and diarrhoea, at bay. The gel is a key part of the strategy to encourage better hand hygiene.
Last week there were up to eight wards closed at DRI and Mexborough Montagu but by Christmas Eve that had come down to just three wards.
But initial analysis of how patients came to be infected with the virus has shown that the bug was brought into hospitals mainly by patients, who had symptoms when they were came into hospital, or developed them soon after admission.
There are also reports that visitors may have inadvertently introduced the virus.