Cruel thieves pose as doctors
THIEVES are posing as doctors and medical staff to steal from hospital workers, patients and visitors.
Mobile phones, wallets, handbags and even medical equipment are the favoured targets of thieves who are also entering hospitals under the guise of visiting patients or friends.
The union that represents Queensland doctors warns people are being left to roam unchecked inside hospitals and other health premises because of lax security.
"There are a lot of people wandering in and out unidentified," Australian Salaried Medical Officers Foundation Queensland president Nick Buckmaster told The Sunday Mail.
"We get people posing as friends and relatives. Some are even posing as staff and doctors."
Dr Buckmaster said easily concealable items such as mobile phones and wallets were regularly stolen.
"I've had my stethoscope and dictaphone taken," he said.
Figures show hospitals and other health clinics are hotbeds of crime as police respond to violent attacks and other serious offences.
Thefts are being reported at a rate of more than three a day, while burglaries are occurring at least twice daily.
More disturbingly, 229 assaults and 46 sexual attacks, including rape, occurred on health premises in 2002-03, the Police Statistical Review shows.
Property damage is another problem for health officials, with 551 incidents reported last financial year. There were also 137 drug-related offences.
The figures have shocked unions and prompted them to urge Queensland Health to take a closer look at security across the state.
A taskforce is already investigating increasing violence in hospitals after The Sunday Mail last month revealed hundreds of Queensland doctors, nurses and administration staff were being assaulted, abused and threatened each month by patients and visitors.
"These are obviously appalling statistics," Dr Buckmaster said.
"I find it horrendous that people who are trying to help others are victims of crime. I think that says something about society."
Dr Buckmaster said he suspected the number of incidents was higher as many thefts went unreported.
Queensland Nurses Union secretary Gay Hawksworth said she was alarmed at the number of serious crimes occurring at health sites.
"Hospitals have always been these big places that are always open – there are so many entry points," she said.
"It seems to me the Government could have a bit closer look at this issue."
Ms Hawksworth said drugs were another worry.
"We've had reports from nurses of dealing going on in hospital grounds," she said.