Toronto hospital removes "offending" grate

A health organization that runs several hospitals in Toronto is apologizing for installing bars over a vent outside a downtown emergency department to deter homeless people from sleeping there.

The University Health Network says the bars were installed because the area outside Toronto General Hospital sees significant traffic from cars and ambulances, and because of safety concerns about garbage and needles found there.

But in trying to solve that problem, the organization says it created the impression that it was not concerned about the needs of the homeless.

UHN spokeswoman Gill Howard says the bars were removed on Wednesday after the organization faced backlash from the public as well as its own staff members.

She says the hospital will still need to address the safety concerns in the area, but will also be looking at more ways to help homeless people.

The University Health Network runs Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospitals, as well as five rehab clinics.

But Al is the part owner of Central Canada Metals, and installed the grate in question. He's not a fan of the decision the hospital made here, based on what he found when he went to the site. 

"One thing I did notice around it, is needles." he says.

His concern was not for the homeless people who may be sleeping on the grate, but the children who would be walking into the hospital with their parents.

"Some little kid could be going to the hospital, and for some reason their parent wasn't paying attention for a split second, picks up a needle, sticks himself with it, now they have HIV. Now, where's this story going to lead to?" he asks.

Howard says they do plan to increase security at the door and have staff make sure the area is cleared of needles.

(With files from the Canadian Press)