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Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach plans to move forward with new security measures

Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach will be adding surveillance cameras and a security guard as new security measures.
Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach will be adding surveillance cameras and a security guard as new security measures.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Following a carjacking incident that occurred on the campus of Providence Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach last year, hospital staff came to the table to discuss some changes to its security plan with the Laguna Beach City Council.

Terry Wooten, chief operating officer for Providence Mission Hospital, presented to the council at the meeting on March 23, revealing that the hospital plans to add surveillance cameras to the parking lot, as well as in the interior lobby and the fourth-floor parking lot of the medical office building on the west side of the facility.

He added that two more cameras would be installed at the east medical office building.

With respect to in-person monitoring of the facility, Wooten said that the hospital would be replacing its parking attendant with a security guard between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays.

“Safety is our highest priority,” Wooten said to kick off the presentation. “We are constantly reviewing and evaluating our protocols on campus to make sure that we are keeping up with standards and addressing the ever-changing need with what’s going on in our community.”

The changes come after Judie Dike was robbed and carjacked in the lower parking lot of Mission Hospital on Oct. 21. Thereafter, Dike communicated with leadership at the hospital, eventually sending a list of security changes she would like to see.

Those discussions led to the hospital comparing its security plan to the ones in place at 18 other medical office properties. Wooten indicated that at that point, the hospital discovered that its security measures put it in the middle of the pack.

“We empathize with Ms. Dike and can’t imagine how terrifying that incident was for her,” Laguna Beach police Capt. Jeff Calvert said.

Describing the police response to the October incident, Calvert said that officers and detectives were able to identify and track down the suspect — Madison Victoria Root, 24, of Rancho Santa Fe — in San Diego within two hours.

The suspect is in custody on charges of carjacking, robbery, assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury, cause of great bodily injury to an elder, inflicting injury on an elder 70 years of age or older and kidnapping.

Jail records show that Root is being held at the Theo Lacy Facility on $500,000 bail.

Calvert added that Natasha Hernandez, a community service officer, will be conducting a report of security measures on the hospital campus, and if more enhancements are recommended, they will be brought back to the council.

The report could focus on things such as visibility improvements, which could come from additional lighting or even the trimming of trees and bushes.

Mission Hospital Laguna Beach is shown on March 31.
Mission Hospital Laguna Beach is shown on March 31.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

In her testimony before the council, Dike called the environment at the hospital “dangerous.”

“My attack was an accident waiting to happen,” Dike said. “Some of these patients who leave the hospital before their time … don’t have a car and just want their next fix. What a better place to go in their desperation than a doctor’s parking lot where the older and more vulnerable are easy prey.”

Laguna Beach Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf asked if the surveillance video is being watched. Hospital staff said that the security feed is not monitored, but footage is generally kept for three months.

Councilman Peter Blake expressed concern about the patients being treated at and ultimately leaving the hospital, particularly those in drug rehabilitation and with severe mental illness.

“It really amazes me to think that the hospital is coming forward today and talking about unmonitored videos and having a security guard,” Blake said. “We pretty much have a serious problem over there.”

Councilwoman Toni Iseman would like to see the hospital’s discharge plan compared to others in the industry. She said she could remember a time when the hospital had a locked unit.

“There are people who when their families have them there, they make the assumption that they’re safe, and for them to be safe means they’re in locked units,” Iseman said. “I think we need more information, and I think maybe we can learn from other hospitals other ways of dealing with what the community concerns are.”

In his closing remarks, Mayor Bob Whalen reiterated that the purpose of the discussion at the meeting was to address short-term security issues.

“I thank the hospital for undertaking this review and putting in place some additional measures,” Whalen said. “We did agree, and it was really not the intention to have the hospital present tonight that a longer-term analysis needs to be done with respect to discharge plans.

“We want our police to give us a lot more input on how it’s being handled, what the issues are, continue the dialogue with the hospital, so I don’t expect the hospital to have the answers to that tonight. I think we just agreed that we would continue to discuss that issue as sort of the next in our phase of discussions, and this would focus on security.”

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