Police are describing as "mongrels" those responsible for stealing resuscitation equipment and drugs from an ambulance in Temuka early yesterday morning.
Temuka St John personnel had been called to a baby with breathing difficulties and a Timaru crew had gone to assist them.
While the two crews were in the house treating the baby, thieves entered the unlocked Timaru ambulance and stole a resuscitation pack worth several thousand dollars. The theft occurred around 1.20am while the ambulances were parked in Dyson St.
It was the second incident in the last couple of weeks in which equipment has been stolen from local ambulances, according to Constable Richard Pattie of the Temuka police. An oxygen cylinder was taken from an ambulance which had been called to a Pleasant Point address one evening about a fortnight ago. The incidents were not considered to be related.
"As far as I am concerned this is the lowest form offending can get," Mr Pattie said.
"They [St John] are only out at this time of day because they are assisting someone who needs help.
"Some mongrel did this. They are the lowest of the lowest."
The theft occurred around the same time as a teenage party had broken up at an address about a block away, and Mr Pattie considered the partygoers likely suspects.
"If young ones are that cheeky and disrespectful they need to be bloody ashamed of themselves."
The partygoers had left a trail of broken bottles on the roads and footpaths in the Allnatt-Dyson streets area.
All the gear stolen yesterday was used to save lives, St John's regional operations manager Chris Haines said.
The equipment was in a dark green cloth bag emblazoned with the St John logo. It was about the size of a large backpack.
Mr Haines said there would be situations, such as a cardiac arrest, where an ambulance would be of no use without the resuscitation kit.
It contained a large amount of equipment including a stethoscope, blood pressure bands, bag mask and drugs used to start the heart.
The drugs, including adrenaline and atrophine, were contained in small vials and were of no use for anything other than their intended purpose, Mr Haines said. The kits did not contain controlled drugs.
Mr Haines said the kit would cost several thousand dollars to replace. Such incidents were also upsetting for the staff involved.
"We are concerned people are messing around in the ambulance. That vehicle could have been useless if it had had to respond to another call and it did not have the kit.
"It [theft] does happen from time to time. They don't realise the foolishness of what they are doing.
"I really get annoyed [by thefts] and I share [Mr Pattie's] frustration."
Mr Haines said ambulances were not always locked, as in a true emergency timing was critical, and staff were more concerned about attending to the patient than securing the vehicle.
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