The family of a woman who was found dead in a stairwell at San Francisco General Hospital, a city-run hospital, has filed a claim against the city for damages of over $25,000. Because the family is suing a government entity, a claim must be filed before a lawsuit can be filed. The matter is expected to end up in court. The claim alleges the hospital committed medical malpractice, the sheriff’s deputies were negligent in providing security at the hospital, there were dangerous conditions on the property, and that the hospital violated California’s elder abuse law.

The woman was 57 and was admitted to the hospital last year for a bladder infection and for being disoriented. After she was admitted, she was described by nurses as being disoriented, weak, and tried to get out of bed to leave. The woman disappeared from the hospital on September 21 of last year. A doctor ordered that she be watched around the clock, but nurses failed to act on the order.

According to investigators, sheriff’s deputies told investigators that they were never told to look for the woman the day she disappeared. A supervisor claimed that he had told investigators to search for her, but that they had not been told to look in the hospital’s stairwells. Finally, nine days after the woman went missing, hospital administrators told deputies to search the entire hospital campus, but the search did not include the stairwell where the woman was later found.

On October 4, a hospital researcher reported seeing a woman lying in a stairwell. However, even after that report, no one searched the area. The woman was finally found in that stairwell on October 8. An autopsy found that she had been dead for several days.

A Medicare investigator found that there were systemic failures at the hospital, and that hospital officials had never coordinated an emergency plan with the Sheriff’s Department, which led to the terrible response after the patient disappeared. The hospital points the finger at the Sheriff’s Department, saying that they have wanted to contract with a better security force but have been prevented from doing so by the Board of Supervisors since 2009.

However, the hospital is at fault too according to the report, which said that a failure to follow the doctor’s orders resulted in the patient being allowed to leave. According to the investigation, this is not the first time this has happened – an audit done last year found that out of eight patients randomly selected who were supposed to be monitored, nurses failed to do so in two cases. Fortunately, the Sheriff’s Department and the hospital are making changes to avoid another incident such as this one.

It’s clear in this situation that negligence occurred by several parties, including the hospital and the Sheriff’s Department. A hospital owes patients a basic duty of care, including the duty to keep the premises safe and secure, and to protect their patients from any known risks of which they are aware, among other duties. In this situation, the hospital knew that the woman was at risk of wandering away, but failed to take any actions to stop it. The Sheriff’s Department also owes the hospital patients a basic duty to keep the premises secure and to respond quickly to any security issues, such as a missing patient. They failed in their basic duties in this situation.

At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that hospital patients should be treated with a high level of care. A failure to stop a confused patient from leaving the premises, as well as a failure to find her for 17 days after she disappeared is a horrible breach of duty. If you have been harmed by the negligence of a hospital, you have legal options. You may be able to sue the hospital for damages.

Call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco medical malpractice attorney, at Liberty Law. She can be reached at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000.

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