EDMONTON -- The COVID-19 pandemic has some opportunistic thieves breaking into parked cars at the University of Alberta hospital, according to staff.

There were 10 vehicle break-ins in two Alberta Health Service parkades open to staff and the public between March 14 and April 1, according to an AHS spokesperson.

While there have been no break-ins since then, AHS says it typically only sees one to two per month.

"Protective Services and AHS Parking Services have increased patrols of parkades, and are working with EPS on the investigation," AHS said. "This is extremely disappointing at any time, and especially now, given the incredibly hard work and dedication shown by our healthcare workers."

Kim Ewasiuk, an intensive care nurse, is one of the nearly dozen who had their vehicles broken into after working a day shift at the hospital on March 14.

"I felt so violated that someone would do this to a healthcare worker who's trying to give up their time to help others," she said.

Even with insurance, Ewasiuk was out $1,000 because of the heartless theft.

"Luckily, I'm one of the essential workers who's working and having a paycheque, but $1,000 out of my pocket at this point is tough. It's definitely tough," she said.

AHS sent an email out to staff alerting them of the spike in break-ins, prompting one lab assistant's son to drive his mom to work at 4 a.m. in the morning.

"Just so we don't have to have her vehicle sitting there, just in case it gets broken into," said Daniel Hein, who keeps an eye out for suspicious activity in the parkade. "[Health care workers] come in every day and risk their life, and risk the life of their family with being in the hospital every day."

Ewasiuk said she can appreciate that some people don't know where their next paycheque is coming from.

"But taking from others is not the way to handle this situation," she said.

Parking is currently free at all AHS facilities.

With a report from CTV News Edmonton's Sarah Plowman.