Providence Mission Hospital hasn’t fulfilled a promise to replace a parking attendant with a security guard, says a Laguna Niguel woman who was carjacked last October at the South Laguna campus.
Adding a guard was among the planned security upgrades presented to the Laguna Beach City Council by hospital executives in March. Despite a hospital spokesperson’s claim that a security post was installed in the lower parking lot, Judie Dike said there’s still a parking attendant primarily tasked with preventing beach visitors from parking in the hospital lot.
“Obviously, I’m very angry because it was so deceitful to me and everyone else,” Dike said. “At the same time I’m extremely disappointed in the hospital’s leadership.”
Six additional security cameras in and around the west and east medical office buildings, parking lot, and parking structure, hospital spokesperson Carrie Miller said in a statement. On Tuesday, a reporter confirmed the presence of two cameras on the west building and a third overlooking the lower parking lot off of South Coast Highway.
Earlier this year, Laguna Beach police conducted a site security review of the South Laguna property, offering a menu of possible upgrades to hospital staffers. The report is exempt from the California Public Records Act, a department spokesperson said.
“The safety of our patients, visitors and caregivers is our highest priority,” Miller said in a statement. “That’s why we have implemented several security enhancements to our campus at Providence Mission Hospital Laguna Beach.”
Hospital staffers have trimmed trees and other foliage to improve visibility as suggested by Laguna Beach police, Miller said, adding that other recommendations will require construction and are being considered.
On Oct. 21, 2020, Dike was walking from the medical office building to her Kia Stinger in the parking lot off South Coast Highway when a maskless woman appeared suddenly, wedging herself between the 77-year-old and the car before demanding Dike hand over her purse.
Dike’s left arm was clipped by the open driver’s door and she was thrown to the side of the sports car. Her head smashed the pavement. The woman backed the car into a tree, threw it in drive and sped off.
“I could see the undercarriage of her car and I could see how close she was to running over me when she drove forward,” Dike said.
San Diego police officers apprehended Madison Victoria Root, 24, of Rancho Santa Fe and a male associate at gunpoint a few hours after the carjacking. She’s pled not guilty to multiple felony charges, including carjacking. She’s in custody at Theo Lacy Jail with bail set at $500,000.
Despite the hospital’s progress on installing security cameras, Dike is more concerned about the absence of a security guard who is trained and empowered to intervene in physical fights.
After Dike was thrown to the ground, a retired paramedic and his wife attended to a gash where the right side of her head hit the pavement. A security guard was conspicuously absent during her attack and a parking attendant wasn’t able to find the supervisor, she said.
On Tuesday afternoon, a uniformed man sat under an umbrella at the entrance to the hospital’s lower parking lot. When a reporter requested his employer’s name, the man displayed a patch on his sleeve reading Casitas Security and directed additional questions to in-house security staff in the main hospital building.
Mission Hospital said Wednesday that a new security position in the lower parking lot requires “enhanced training and competency.” The guard’s hours have been expanded to provide coverage from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Hospital security is also regularly patrolling the lower campus.
Dike said it’s concerning that a hospital spokesperson would say security staffing has changed in a meaningful way after her attack when it hasn’t.
“This person is misinformed and this person needs to go down to the parking lot and see for herself what is going on,” she said.
The City Council has previously agreed to collaborate with hospital executives on improving security at the South Laguna campus. City officials declined to answer whether management or police command staff have asked Mission Hospital if any of the police department’s site security recommendations were implemented over the last five months.
Hospital executives are scheduled to meet with the City Council-appointed subcommittee in September to report what recommendations have been or can be implemented, city spokesperson Cassie Walder wrote in an email.
The Laguna Beach Police Employees Association supports additional security guards at Mission Hospital, a union spokesperson said.
In a July 30 letter, Dike implored the City Council to provide her and the community with answers and to follow through with their investigation of safety issues.
“I need to get on with my life,” Dike said. “It’s the City Council, the Police Department and City Manager who need to be taking care of this.”
Dike’s case reinvigorated discussion in the community about Mission Hospital’s care of severely mentally ill and drug-addicted patients taken into custody in neighboring cities.
Providence Mission Hospital Laguna Beach’s Chemical Dependency Unit is a voluntary unit where patients check themselves in and are free to checkout and leave the program. The Behavioral Health Unit is a locked ward, where patients may not come in and out freely.
A single security guard stationed in a parking lot doesn’t address the broader issue of returning discharged patients—who are sometimes psychotic—to the cities they were detained in, Councilmember Peter Blake said.
“They would literally need a small militia to handle all of the crimes that are being committed there,” Blake said.
Since the hospital refuses to close these wards, the City Council should secure funding from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department and neighboring cities so the cost of policing the hospital doesn’t fall exclusively on Laguna Beach taxpayers, Blake said. The hospital’s management also bears responsibility, he added.
“You can sit there and say you’re protected by the state and federal government but eventually the consequences will match up to you,” Blake said.