Family blames the hospital for allowing 58-year-old Thomas Vera, suffering severe head and neck injuries as well as disillusions, to leave the facility last Monday. NBC 7's Dave Summers spoke with them in this exclusive interview.
Family members of a UCSD Hospital patient who died after walking away from the facility say they want an apology.
Thomas Vera was found dead in Palm Canyon, less than a mile from the medical center, five days after his disappearance.
His wife Sylvia, daughter, Christine, and son Antonio searched for Vera. At times they were within 50 feet of where the body was found.
“I knew he was alive and I know he heard me,” Antonio said.
The Vera family blames the hospital for allowing the 58-year-old suffering severe head and neck injuries as well as disillusions, to leave the facility last Monday.
They question whether the staffers took his disappearance seriously and say as a result Thomas was not found in time.
“I thought he would be in a safe place and there was people there taking care of him,” Vera’s wife Sylvia told NBC 7 in an exclusive interview.
The Vera family has spent the last week since his death, confused. Still not getting the answers to how and why Thomas had to die
“We're all angry and sad,” Vera’s son Antonio said.
The family said Vera survived five days at the bottom of Palm Canyon. That the time of death was likely just hours before he body was found last Friday.
“He died scared. He died in fear,” Antonio said.
Vera suffered severe neck and head injuries when he fell down steps while taking out the garbage.
At the time of Vera's disappearance, he was not thinking straight they said. Twice before, Vera tried to leave the hospital. He had to be tethered to an electronic alarm.
“They could have stopped him. They could have stopped him,” Sylvia said
Early on the hospital offered it's condolences but turned down and on camera interview.
Spokesperson Jacqueline Carr responded this way to questions.
"This is a rare occurrence. No additional cases have been reported in the last year. Until the investigation is complete we are not prepared to provide any additional comments,” Carr said.
The family is not satisfied.
“They went on with their job. They went on with their lives but I stayed up there late nights just thinking of my husband” Sylvia said.
What they want, won't bring back their loved one but will bring peace of mind. What they want is an apology.
“They knew that they did wrong. Everybody who’s ever paid attention to the story knows they did wrong,” Antonio said.
Hospitals are required to report such instances to the California Department of Public Health. The CDPH said Vera was the second walkaway at that facility in the last two years.
If a hospital is found at fault in such instances, it could face administrative penalties which can affect licensing and cost the facility thousands of dollars in fines.