Sheriff says deputies were precluded from searching stairwell for missing elderly woman per agreement with San Francisco hospital

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- New security changes have already been implemented on Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital's campus after the body of a 75-year-old woman missing nearly two weeks was discovered in a power plant stairwell Wednesday by a hospital engineer.

RELATED: Sheriff says deputies were precluded from searching stairwell for missing elderly woman per agreement with SF hospital

Ruby Lee Andersen, 75, was a resident at the Behavioral Health Center Residential Care Facility for the Elderly on the SFGH campus.

"Ms. Andersen was not a patient of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital," said Roland Pickens, Director of SF Health Network. That's an important distinction that the San Francisco sheriff says precluded deputies from looking for Andersen inside the nearby Power Plant building when facility staff notified them May 20.

"For a code green which is a patient disappearance we do have that protocol and every building would be searched including the Sheriff's Department would have searched the Power Plant stairway as well," said San Francisco Sheriff Vicki Hennessy.

RELATED: SF General Hospital announces security changes after body found

It was a hospital engineer, not deputies, who discovered Anderson's body in the power plant interior stairwell.

The director of San Francisco's Health Network says prior to Andersen's body being discovered, no security badge was needed between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. to allow the constant flow of staff, materials and vendors into the power plant building.

Health network officials instituted 24/7 security badge access after Andersen's body was found.

"I think hindsight is 20/20," said Pickens.

The director of SF Health Network says security changes made in 2013 after missing patient Lynn Spalding's body was found in a hospital stairwell focused on securing "patient care areas."

"The power plant just was not something on the radar at the time," said Pickens.

The power plant is across the street from the emergency room.

Roy Miller says he saw Andersen nearly daily when she would walk to a nearby store.

"Just such a sweet lady," said Miller.

By phone, Andersen's family said they're not yet ready to speak about her passing.

The pronounced date and time of Andersen's death was recorded on Wednesday, May 30 at 1:26 pm when the paramedics arrived on the scene and called her death. Andersen's actual time and date of death will not be known for several weeks once the medical examiner has completed their review and provided this information. The California Department of Social Services has launched an investigation into whether the facility followed state regulations in its care of Andersen.

Timeline provided by SF Sheriff Vicki Hennessy during news conference Thursday:

  • May 20 Sunday at 1 p.m. -- team leader from Behavioral Health Center on the campus of SFGH that a resident of the residential care facility for the elderly which is a board and care facility left at 9 a.m. May 19 and indicated she would return at 4 p.m.

  • Deputy responded and took report from team leader.

  • Deputy tried to call two family members that the team leader had already left messages for.

  • Deputy checked SFGH to make sure she hadn't been admitted.

  • Deputy checked jail.

  • Deputy called ME left message with name/physical description.

  • Deputy made a MUPS entry (missing unidentified persons system) 2:1p.m. May 20.

  • Report forwarded to SFPD May 21.

  • Family called in/returned messages on May 22.

  • May 22 - Deputies made a Be On The Lookout For flier and circulated it around the campus

  • May 30 - 12:52 p.m. - engineering staff in Building 2 called deputies re: a possible body in stairwell 2.

  • Deputies secured scene, started incident command protocols.

  • Deputies called ME who determined no need to call SFPD homicide.

  • SFSD criminal investigators reported/opened investigation.

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