Toronto senior robbed while waiting hours in emergency room

An Ontario senior had to defend herself in the emergency room of a Toronto hospital Wednesday after she was nearly robbed by another patient.

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

Levington said they’d waited approximately two hours when he stepped away to make a work call.

“I’m thinking like, ‘She’s not on a New York subway – I’ve left her sitting in the waiting room of a major 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 mother was in the waiting room alone and a woman came and grabbed my mother’s wallet from her purse that was sitting on her lap,” he said. “People around her were yelling and screaming to get help.”

Levington says, despite his mother’s ailments, she was able to follow and confront the culprit, who went into a corner and begun to empty the contents of the wallet. 

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

Staff hadn’t responded at this point, according to Levington, and instead, fellow patients jumped into action to help the woman back into her wheelchair.

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

“You would think that 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 talk 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 his mother’s wallet out of the waiting area.

When reached for comment, the University Health Network, which oversees Toronto General Hospital, told CTV News Toronto its emergency departments are, “of necessity, open to anyone .. and are often seen as a place of respite for people experiencing homelessness.”

“This is a very unfortunate event and anyone involved in the incident will be part of the investigation,” Gillian Howard, spokesperson for UHN, said in a statement.

“It would have been very frightening for the patient involved and we deeply regret that someone 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 rocks at the system,” but that he hopes meaningful change will be sparked within healthcare.

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

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