In an incident eerily reminiscent of one that occurred five years ago, a woman was found dead last week in a stairway of the power plant building on the property of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. The Los Angeles Times reported that a hospital staff member discovered the body at about 1 p.m. last Wednesday.
Hospital officials said the woman was Ruby Anderson, 76, a dementia patient who went missing from a nearby mental health facility on May 20.
“Something went wrong here because Mrs. Ruby Anderson died, and it’s a terrible thing that happened, and we’re looking into how it can be prevented in the future,” Rachael Kagan, a spokeswoman for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, told the Times. “We’ve seen a loophole now in the system, or a consequence that can happen that had never happened before.”
Kagan said on Friday that there was no evidence of foul play in the preliminary coroner’s report and a cause of death has not been determined. Officials said Anderson lived at the Behavioral Health Center Residential Care Facility for the Elderly, and she regularly would sign herself in and out. She had checked out at about 9 a.m. on May 19 and said she’d be back by 4 p.m. Staff reported Anderson missing to the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department on May 20; deputies checked to see if she had been admitted to the hospital, called her family and the medical examiner, and distributed fliers around the hospital campus.
Hospital officials last week tightened security measures at the power plant building, which previously had been accessible to anyone without an ID badge from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. The building now requires visitors to have an ID badge at all times.
The Times reports that had Anderson been a hospital patient, sheriff’s deputies would have searched the whole hospital campus including the power plant stairwell. The facility revamped its security procedures in 2013 after Lynne Spalding, 57, was found dead in an emergency stairwell 17 days after going missing from her hospital room.
Spalding had been admitted to the hospital with an infection and went missing two days later. After a worker found her body, it was determined she died from dehydration and complications from alcoholism. A claim brought by her family was settled for $3 million in 2014.