Hospitals review security following thefts

The Toronto East General hospital (TEGH) is reviewing its security policies in the wake of a jewellery theft from an 83-year-old woman on her deathbed last week.

Rocky Prosser, head of security at the hospital says the theft has left hospital staff feeling disgusted.

“What amazed me is that the hospital community has to review its security measures because of a very small number of people who abuse the system of the hospital,” Prosser said. “It’s already a balancing act between maintaining safety and allowing free access to loved ones.”

Prosser said the hospital has put together a task force that will be meeting this week to discuss hospital security.

“We want to see if we could have done anything differently,” he said.

The task force was created following the theft on March 16 at TEGH, where police say the two thieves stole more than $7000 worth of jewellery from an elderly woman, just moments before she died.

Police allege the same two men are also suspected for a spate of robberies at four other Toronto hospitals, including Etobicoke General, Brampton Civic, North York General, York Central and St. Joseph’s Health Centre.

The Brampton Civic hospital released a statement on March 19 stating that two wallets had been allegedly stolen from its labour and delivery department. A hospital spokeswoman said Peel police were notified on March 10 immediately after hospital security was told.

“We regret that patients have lost personal items and we are doing everything possible to work with local police to investigate and ensure all steps are taken to avoid this in the future,” hospital spokeswoman Dawne Barbieri said.

“We must do everything possible to keep our patients safe,” she said. “When a patient loses property, we all feel saddened.”

Both Prosser and Barbieri agree that hospitals are public spaces with many access points allowing people to come and go freely. Brampton Civic is equipped with more than 450 cameras and supported by 24-hour security whereas TEGH has over 250 cameras.

Prosser said that having a security checkpoint at hospital entrance would not help the problem.

“We have thousands of visitors every day. Visiting hours are already restricted from noon to 8 p.m., since the SARS outbreak,” Prosser said.

“Bringing in that extra security would have a bottleneck effect. I imagine it would take almost two hours to see a patient. We would be imposing restrictions to visit loved ones.”

“We feel the best solution is to lock up valuables or leave them at home,” Barbieri said.

But in a cruel twist of fate, the 83-year-old woman who lost her jewelry was a victim of a previous break-and-enter at her home, which is why police say she brought her jewelry to the hospital.

Police arrested 29-year-old Issac Lewkowitz and 26-year-old Marcos Marinoni of Vaughan. They face several charges including theft, conspiracy to commit indictable offence, possession of heroin and marijuana.

Marinoni was expected to make a court appearance for a bail hearing on Sunday at 10 a.m., but police say he was complaining of facial injuries and was taken to St. Michael’s hospital.

“He made some complaints about being hurt, so he was taken to hospital but is now back in police custody,” Staff Sgt. Kelly Dory said.

“He did have some injuries when he was brought into the station, but the injuries were not acquired at the station,” she said.

His bail hearing was rescheduled for Monday morning.