Authorities are investigating the theft last week of $5,500 from the trauma center at Scripps Memorial Hospital here.
The money belonged to a 94-year-old man being treated at the center and was being kept in the trauma center business office, hospital officials said.
The money was placed there for safekeeping by two Scripps nurses Thursday, after James Hampson of Santa Ana was brought in for observation by a California Highway Patrol officer. The patrolman had pulled Hampson over for driving at less than 10 m.p.h. on the freeway, police said.
When Hampson was admitted, the nurses, following hospital procedures, removed his wallet and valuables. Trauma center doctors thought Hampson, who had a deep cut on one hand, might have suffered a stroke, and decided to keep the elderly man at the hospital overnight, hospital spokeswoman Diane Yohe said.
The nurses placed the money and an expensive Belgian gold watch of Hampson’s in a sealed envelope, San Diego police said. The nurses would normally have notified their night supervisor, who is responsible for placing patients’ valuables in the hospital safe. But they were called away to aid paramedics bringing in victims of a severe traffic accident, and before leaving, one of the nurses placed the envelope in a filing basket beneath the admitting counter, Yohe said.
Three hours later, the envelope containing the watch and the money was discovered to be missing.
Hampson received a check for $5,500 to replace the loss when he was released from the hospital the next day. Hospital officials said they also plan to replace the watch.
Yohe said only hospital employees, including clerks, nurses, doctors, paramedics and cleaning personnel, had access to the trauma business office.
Police said they have questioned hospital staff members and accident victims who were in the trauma center Thursday night.
The two nurses who stored the money in the trauma office were reprimanded by hospital authorities but face no penalty because, Yohe said, they “were acting under extremely demanding circumstances which may have accounted for the oversight.”