Some $250,000 worth of N95 masks and surgical gloves was discovered stolen Saturday from an Oahu health care company that has been distributing them to its health care workers and selling them at cost to first responders across the state, the owner told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
The personal protective equipment, which is in high demand across the world, had been kept in a storage area near the Kapiolani Boulevard offices of Wilson Care Group, owner and president Shelley Wilson said.
The thief or thieves were able to steal only half of the medical-grade N95 and “barrier grade” masks, and about one-fourth of Wilson Care Group’s gloves. The thief would have needed “a couple of moving vans” to make off with all of the inventory, Wilson said.
The remaining inventory has since been moved to an undisclosed location known only to Wilson.
“It’s absolutely stored somewhere else,” she said. “I’m not going to tell anybody where anything is.”
The equipment is intended for the company’s more than 500 nurses, nurses’ aids and other health care workers who provide in-home care for “keiki to kupuna” on Oahu, Wilson said, along with treatment for Wounded Warrior military veterans across the state.
Wilson Care Group also operates a 22-bed home for seniors in Kailua, where they are treated by health care workers who have been living and working on-site for the past three weeks to reduce the chance of introducing the novel coronavirus, Wilson said.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the company has been donating N95 masks and selling them at cost to first responders and the state Department of Health, she said.
The company had been buying personal protective equipment for months from the mainland and internationally.
On Saturday afternoon Wilson went to the company’s offices on Kapiolani Boulevard to check on a new delivery that had arrived the day before but had yet to be inventoried.
Only Wilson and another employee have keys to the storage area.
“The door to the area where the PPE was being stored was unlocked and basically opened,” she said. “Many boxes of N95 mask were missing, along with surgical masks and gloves.”
A locksmith recently changed the locks on the storage area, but the locksmith and the company are not suspects, Wilson said.
The storage area and its contents were also known to various delivery people who brought in new purchases of personal protective equipment, she said.
Wilson had never been the victim of a theft before.
“It’s a very, very odd feeling,” she said. “No one ever tried to break into a home care office. When I opened the door, I knew immediately. I wasn’t mad or angry or upset. I was just so sad that anyone would take away the supplies that first responders need.”
Wilson said the company is insured for the loss. But it will be even harder to make up for the stolen masks and gloves, equipment intended for health care workers and first responders across the islands as global demand increases, she said.
“Every day it gets harder and harder,” Wilson said. “The whole world is literally looking for the same product and needing more and more. … Hawaii is one of last places to get the virus. We’re one of the last places on earth that will literally need this equipment. So sourcing will be even more difficult because we’re last in line.”
There is no way to identify the stolen personal protective equipment because it was purchased from different manufacturers on the mainland and internationally.
“You could sell it on eBay and make a fortune,” Wilson said.
Honolulu police did not respond Monday to repeated requests for information about the theft.
For their efforts, Wilson gave investigating officers some of her remaining inventory of N95 masks.
Wilson said, “I have all the faith in HPD. They were wonderful.”
“We have to protect the police, firefighters, paramedics and health care providers. This is life and death. It boils down to that.”