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Ontario senior’s wallet stolen from ER waiting room

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An elderly Ontario woman had to defend herself in a Toronto hospital emergency room Wednesday after she was robbed by another patient.

Avi Levington, a Toronto resident, told CTV News Toronto that he took his 68-year-old mother to Toronto General Hospital on Elizabeth Street around 9:30 a.m. as she was experiencing significant hip pain.

Levington said they had waited about two hours when he walked away to make a work call.

“I’m thinking, ‘She’s not on the New York subway, I left her sitting in the waiting room of a major hospital in Toronto,’” he said in a telephone interview.

But in her absence, Levington said a stranger approached her mother, reached into the purse on her lap and stole her wallet.

“My mother was alone in the waiting room and a woman came and took my mother’s wallet from her bag that was on her lap,” he said. “People around him were screaming and yelling for help.”

Levington says that despite his mother’s ailments, he was able to go on and confront the culprit, who went into a corner and began emptying the contents of the wallet.

“My mom, in addition to being a transplant patient, has very advanced scoliosis, so walking is obviously extremely difficult for her. She can walk but with tremendous difficulty, but she was able to get up and slide her wallet back,” she said.

Staff had not responded at this point, according to Levington, and instead other patients sprang into action to help the woman return to her wheelchair.

He said that upon his return a minute or two into the interaction, he noticed the lack of a security guard, which he thought was “extremely strange.”

“You’d 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 into one of those microphone devices,” he said.

After about five minutes, Levington said, a security guard appeared and escorted the woman who tried to get her mother’s wallet out of the waiting room.

When contacted for comment, the University Health Network, which oversees Toronto General Hospital, told CTV News Toronto that its emergency departments are, “by necessity, open to anyone… and are often seen as a resting place for the homeless.

“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 are deeply sorry that someone seeking care had this experience.”

As of Thursday, Levington’s mother is recovering at home.

He says he doesn’t want to share his story as “just another person throwing stones at the system,” but he hopes it will bring about meaningful change in healthcare.

“Let’s just find a way to run these places more efficiently and safely. That is all.”

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