As my colleague Leah Hoenen and I discussed the article she wrote about the tragic death of a patient who went missing at San Francisco General Hospital and was found dead 17 days later in a hospital stairwell, we were flabbergasted to say the least.
We kept coming back to one question: How could this happen at a major metropolitan health-care facility? The 57-year-old woman was admitted with a urinary tract infection.
SFGH, a level-one trauma center with 598 beds serving 100,000 patients a year, contracts with the local sheriff’s department to provide its security. There’s no official hospital security director, no proprietary staff.
I called Bryan Warren, president of the International Association for Hospital Security and Safety, for some context around this event.
“Smaller and rural hospitals don’t always have good security. Sometimes maintenance people have to wear that hat. But at a large-scale hospital, it’s very unusual. It shocks the conscience,” Warren said in a phone interview, referring to SFGH.
It doesn’t appear that the sheriff’s deputies were up on hospital policies and procedures. There are missing patient protocols that need to be in place, Warren said. “There was a huge gap that resulted in a very tragic incident.”
It’s not unusual for major hospitals to supplement or complement their security teams with off-duty law enforcement, but to solely rely on them and not have them trained properly is a different story.
As Warren said, “Administrators take it for granted that because you’re a deputy you can do hospital security. But it’s a very different role, and until we get that point across as a profession, we’re going to continue to have these challenges.”
Thankfully, the hospital recently has made some security changes, and the sheriff has admitted flaws in his department’s system and is reassigning staff.
I hope Security Director News will never have to report on a similar event in the near future. Make sure you read Leah’s article here.