By Jennifer Saltman, The Province
Relatives of an 88-year-old woman hope security at Surrey Memorial Hospital will be improved following a brazen robbery that left the woman with an injured hand.
Grace Marriott was taken to the hospital by ambulance on Feb. 20 after a bout of dizziness and shortness of breath that hit while she was at her daughter’s home in North Delta. Marriott suffers from dementia and has limited mobility after having a series of strokes.
Before the ambulance left for the hospital, Marriott’s daughter, son-in-law and paramedics tried to remove a diamond cluster ring from her right ring finger, but it would not come off without significant effort and her family decided to leave it on her finger. The ring was given to Marriott by her now-deceased husband on her 50th birthday.
“My mom would never have had that ring on her finger if we could have gotten it off without hurting her,” said Marriott’s daughter, Gail Pont. “Unfortunately, somebody decided they wanted this ring.”
On Saturday, around dinner time, a man walked in and sat beside Marriott. Questioned by staff, the man said he was Marriott’s grandson. When they were alone, the man wrenched the ring off her finger and left.
“She really has no recollection that this even happened,” said Marriott’s grandson, James Pont. “When it occurred she had been through so much already in the hospital that she thought it was another procedure.”
James Pont said his grandmother has trouble remembering when people have visited and is often confused about who has visited her.
“If somebody sits down she’s just happy to have someone to talk to,” he said.
As a result of the robbery, Marriott’s fingers are bruised and scratched.
“I find it upsetting that there are people like this in the world,” said Gail Pont.
A nurse was able to describe the suspect, but security staff were unable to get an image of the man. Gail Pont said one issue is that the camera in the elevator points at the top of people’s heads.
“I’m not saying a bad word about the security, and the staff at the hospital has been phenomenal,” she said. “But the security staff is really working with their hands tied behind their backs.”
Gail Pont said she understands that there may be issues around patient privacy, but she thinks more cameras at better angles in the elevators, entrances and exits, and on the wards, could help prevent crimes. She also suggested a sign-in system for visitors.
Gail Pont has filed a complaint with Fraser Health and the Lower Mainland Integrated Protection Services and hopes that changes will be made to the security so no one else has to go through what her family has endured.
“It’s awful that we have to do this now,” she said.
Fraser Health spokeswoman Tasleem Juma said hospitals are public places and, unfortunately, property is stolen from time to time.
“We’re actually quite disgusted that somebody would take advantage of a patient in this situation,” Juma said.
In this case as in others like it, the affected hospital conducts its own investigation and takes any steps necessary to prevent future incidents.
After Marriott’s ring was taken, security was increased on the unit and staff were educated about being aware of who is coming and going on a unit. Patients and their families are also encouraged not to bring valuables to the hospital.
Juma said the hospital does have closed-circuit cameras in various locations and at this time does not plan to increase the number of cameras. She said she is not aware of any issues with the positioning of the existing cameras.
There is no plan to implement a sign-in process for visitors. Juma said the hospital has to find the right balance between staff and patient safety and visitor access.
“We do recognize that the hospital is a public place. Visitors are an important part of a patient’s recovery, so we don’t want to make the process of visiting a loved one difficult,” she said.
Juma said Fraser Health is doing all it can to help with the police investigation.
Surrey RCMP spokesman Cpl. Scotty Schumann confirmed that police received a call from Marriott’s family on Sunday reporting the crime. He said police don’t currently have any suspects and the file is still under investigation.