LONG BEACH — The mysterious appearance of a phony doctor in the maternity ward at Memorial Medical Center of Long Beach last week has left chagrined administrators there vowing to enhance what they say is an already elaborate security system.
"We're going to look into this to find out where the systems that we have in place failed," said Dr. Ralph Hill, the hospital's medical director.
Said John Metcalfe, director of risk management and patient affairs: "This is very unusual. It's difficult to know how it happened."
Booked late Tuesday on suspicion of sexual battery was Randy Morey, a Long Beach resident who listed his employer as the U.S. Navy. A Navy spokesman could not confirm that connection.
Confronted by Nurse
Police said Morey, 24, apparently entered the hospital sometime Tuesday wearing white surgical garb and a stethoscope. He was observed on several floors before being confronted by a suspicious nurse about 10:30 p.m. after visiting a patient who had delivered a baby earlier and was resting in her hospital room, police said.
Although Long Beach Police Sgt. Terry Holland initially said Morey had "touched a private area of (the patient's) body and examined her," a hospital spokesman said the next day that the intruder had merely talked to her while members of her family, convinced he was a doctor, waited in the hall.
When confronted, Holland said, Morey produced a laminated identification card--which he apparently manufactured--bearing his picture and indicating that he was an intern assigned to Memorial.
Hospital officials say this is the first time they know of that an intruder has successfully masqueraded as a medical employee at the hospital. "It's a constant concern," Hill said. "We have a medical staff of 1,200 physicians and 200 residents; we have a lot of physicians going in and out of patients' rooms and that's why we're always concerned about security."
Officials at nearby Long Beach Community Hospital experienced a public relations disaster two years ago when a woman dressed as a nurse entered a patient's room in the maternity ward and walked off with a newborn infant. Although the baby was recovered unharmed several days later, the widely reported incident resulted in a thorough revamping of security at the hospital.
"We dramatically increased our security in a lot of ways," said John Jeffries, vice president of administrative services. Among other steps, he said, the hospital increased its number of security guards, instituted a key card access system, enhanced electronic surveillance and installed new security doors and alarms. As a result, he said, there have been no further incidents and the number of maternity patients at Community has increased threefold since the kidnapping.
Administrators at Memorial say they hope the more recent episode will not have a detrimental effect on either patient load or public confidence in their institution.
"We have an elaborate security system that is at least as effective as any hospital's that you're going to find," Metcalfe said. Among its features, he said, are electronic surveillance, a large security staff and a medical staff "very attuned" to potential problems.
"I would like to think that this episode suggests that our security is working," Metcalfe said. "We achieved a positive result in a very short time because of an efficient security force and a hospital-wide effort."