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Security gaps could be a factor in elderly woman's death

Local headlines feature a great many sad stories of injury and death. One of the most notable this week is the death of a 75-year-old woman on the campus of San Francisco General Hospital. Hospital staff reported her missing May 20, though she had been gone from the premises since the day before. Authorities say an engineering employee came across her body May 30 in the stairwell of a power plant building.

Investigators have not said how long the woman's body had been in the location. Nor has cause of death been determined. They do say they don't suspect foul play.

Not surprisingly, a daughter of the woman is expressing outrage over the tragedy. She says her mother suffered from dementia. Hospital officials, citing privacy laws, neither confirm nor deny that claim, but acknowledge the facility she was in does serve mental health patients. Still, they stress that the woman was a resident of a senior care facility on the campus, not a patient, and that she had signed herself out and indicated she would return on the day she went missing.

Notably, personnel at the hospital acknowledge an apparent gap in security. That made it possible for this woman to gain entry to the power plant without having a security badge. In addition, officials say that while searches of the grounds were conducted after the disappearance, the suggestion is they were not as robust as the might have been if the woman had been a patient.

State and local codes in California are in place for the purpose of keeping residents safe. If negligence or disregard for regulations results in serious or fatal injury to someone, victims and their loved ones should consult an experienced attorney to understand their rights and their options regarding possible compensation.

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