Authorities are investigating the theft of $5,500 from the trauma center at Scripps Memorial Hospital.
The money belonged to a 94-year-old Santa Ana 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 on Sept. 5 after James Hampson was brought in for observation by a California Highway Patrol officer. The patrolman had pulled Hampson over for driving less than 10 m.p.h. on a 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 of his hands, might have suffered a stroke, and decided to keep him at the hospital overnight, hospital spokeswoman Diane Yohe said.
The nurses placed the money and an expensive Belgian gold watch belonging to Hampson in a sealed envelope, police said. The nurses would normally have notified their night supervisor, who is responsible for placing patient’s valuables in the hospital safe. But they were called away to aid paramedics bringing in victims of a 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 found 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.