Ruby Lee Andersen died in a stairwell three years after SF General got its $75 million naming rights deal from the Zuckerberg-Chans, and five years after another woman died at the same hospital in the same fashion.
Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, home of the $3,300 single stitch, has been in the news lately for its insane billing practices. But other problems have plagued the facility for years — notably, mentally infirm patients being allowed to walk off on their own and then dying nightmarish deaths trapped alone in locked stairwells. One of those cases is back in the news — that is, the heartbreaking story 75-year-old dementia sufferer Ruby Lee Andersen, who met that fate in May 2018. The San Francisco Examiner reports that Anderson’s four children are suing the hospital, alleging that the facility’s Behavioral Health Center “did nothing” to protect her despite knowing her condition.
“They recognized her confusion and yet they just kept doing things as had been done previously,” Haig Harris, the attorney representing the family, told the Examiner. “They let her go off by herself and she died, pretty simple.”
The case is eerily similar to the 2013 stairwell death of Lynne Spalding — who died at the exact same facility under more or less the same circumstances. (Spalding’s family was awarded a $3 million settlement from the city, which seems to set the bar for a potential Anderson family settlement.) SF General also “lost” a patient in 2015 whose body turned up across town at a construction site.
Anderson signed herself out of the facility the morning of May 19, 2018, to get batteries for her hearing aid. But in her condition, she ended up walking into a nearby engineering building from which she would never emerge alive, and her body was found 11 days later. One of the doors she opened should have set off an alarm, but its battery was apparently dead, which certainly gives the family attorney something to work with.
The family alleges a number of other gaps in Anderson’s care, as well as gaps in the city’s response. They say she’d already been diagnosed with dementia but was not moved to an appropriate facility, and it certainly makes little sense for dementia victims to be let out to have to buy their own hearing aid batteries. Moreover, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department did not search the whole facility for her after she was reported missing. This was on the extremely very inexplicable excuse that Anderson was considered a “resident” instead of a “patient.” The Sheriff’s Department, hospital, Department of Public Health, and San Francisco City Attorney’s Office all declined to comment on the Examiner for this story.