An Ontario senior had to defend herself in the emergency room of a Toronto hospital Wednesday after she was robbed by another patient.
Toronto resident Avi Levington told CTV News Toronto that he took his 68-year-old mother to Toronto General Hospital on Elizabeth Street around 9:30 a.m. when she experienced significant hip pain.
Levington said they had been waiting about two hours when he left to make a work call.
“I’m like, ‘She’s not on a New York subway — I’ve got her sitting in the waiting room of a big hospital in Toronto,'” he said in a phone interview.
But in his absence, Levington said a stranger approached his mother, reached into the purse on her lap and stole her wallet.
“My mom was alone in the waiting room and a woman came and grabbed my mom’s wallet from her purse that was sitting on her lap,” he said. “People around her were yelling and screaming for help.”
Levington says that despite her mother’s suffering, she was able to follow and confront the culprit, who walked into a corner and began emptying the contents of the purse.
“My mother, in addition to being a transplant patient, has very advanced scoliosis, so of course it is extremely difficult for her to walk. She is able to walk, but with enormous difficulty, but she was able to stand up and pull her wallet back,” he said.
Staff had not responded at this point, according to Levington, and instead fellow patients stepped in to help the woman back into her wheelchair.
He said that when he returned, a minute or two after the interaction, he noticed the lack of a security guard, which he thought was “extremely odd.”
“You would think there would be [a security guard] there and there wasn’t – just someone sitting behind the glass wall where they can only hear if you speak through one of those microphone devices,” he said.
After about five minutes, Levington said a security guard appeared and escorted the woman who tried to grab her mother’s wallet out of the waiting area.
As University Health Network, which oversees Toronto General Hospital, told CTV News Toronto that its emergency departments are “necessarily open to everyone … and are often seen as a respite for people experiencing homelessness.”
“This is a very unfortunate event and anyone involved in the incident will be part of the investigation,” UHN spokeswoman Gillian Howard said in a statement, adding that “emergency departments have security personnel assigned to the area.”
“It would have been very frightening for the patient involved and we deeply regret that anyone seeking care has had this experience.”
As of Thursday, Levington’s mother is recovering at home.
He says he doesn’t want to share his story as “another person throwing stones at the system,” but that he hopes meaningful change will be sparked in health care.
“Let’s just figure out a way to run these places more efficiently and more safely. That’s all.”