Health Inc.

Some Hospital Patients Take More Than Their Pills

Hotel guests aren't the only ones with light fingers. Turns out hospitals have their share of visitors who like souvenirs, too.

Recently released results from a survey of 93 nonprofit hospitals show two-thirds were aware of patient pilfering.

Not a lot of theft, mind you. About half the hospitals said it cost them less than $15,000 a year.

Still, it adds up, according to officials at VHA, a consortium of nonprofit hospitals, which did the survey. Extrapolating it out, this kind of theft costs hospitals $52 million a year, VHA figures.

What gets taken most? Take a guess from this list of the top items. (Answers after the jump.)

OK, so what gets swiped? One hospital executive replied, "Anything which is not secured or tied down." Another manager replied, "Towels, even the rough ones I buy." Ultrasound machines even made the list. So did telephones, and surgical scrubs.

Maybe folks out there are trying to film their own hospital dramas for YouTube. Or scarier still, set up their own little hospitals.

We wondered how the civilian thefts compared with those by the staff. A VHA spokesman said the consensus is that patients' pilfering isn't nearly as big a problem as workers taking scrubs. To combat those losses, some hospitals require employees to return old scrubs before they can get a new set, sort of like the library.

Oh, what did the survey say was the most likely stuff to be taken? Towels, it turns out. After that, in order, the items are: pillows, bed linens, phones and scrubs.



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