December 30, 2013 - 2:28 PM
VERNON - The public has been handed a role in helping locate AWOL medical patients, and the RCMP says it’s working.
Two months ago, Vernon RCMP began—for the first time—to publicize the names of patients who went missing from medical facilities. Included in the public appeals is a description of the individual, sometimes a caution not to approach him or her, and a request to contact the police with any information. RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk says lost medical patients are considered missing persons.
“We take every missing person very seriously. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a child that goes missing or a senior that goes missing. We’re putting it out (to the public),” Molendyk says.
Alerting the public has had notable effects. Patients are being found much sooner, sometimes within hours. The quicker they are located, the quicker they can resume needed medical care, Molendyk says.
“It is beneficial because instead of just 100 pairs of eyes, we’ve got several thousand,” Molendyk says.
He notes many patients who leave medical facilities visit friends or family members. The hosts may not be fully aware of the individual’s situation or the fact they’ve gone missing.
“In today’s world with social media... we utilize everything we can to try and locate these people,” Molendyk says.
While some AWOL patients have, on occasion, posed threats to police officers and the public, Molendyk says it’s their own safety and wellbeing that is paramount.
“Help us find these people to get them back,” Molendyk says.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013