Disabled patient who left hospital unnoticed is found more than 24 hours later

SOUTH FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — A 50-year-old man was found Tuesday evening after being missing for over 24 hours, according to family members.

Paul Smith walked out of Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center South around 3 p.m. Monday, unnoticed.

Someone found Smith 5 miles away from the hospital at a home along Donnelly Avenue on Tuesday.

Randy Tharpe, who lives at the home, said Smith, who was bruised and still wearing a heart monitor and an IV, was clearly confused.

“When I walked up, he was quite disoriented. He constantly did not let go of the door knob. I said, ‘Can I help you? He said, ‘I live here,’” Tharpe said.


The 50-year-old told Tharpe he lived at the house with his mother, but Smith’s mother died in 1999.

Smith’s family happily thanked Tharpe for finding him and calling police.

When Channel 2's Nefertiti Jaquez spoke with them Tuesday afternoon, when Smith was still missing, they were livid.

“It’s not fair because I feel like if you’re in this profession and you don’t have a heart for it, shouldn’t be here,” Smith’s cousin said.

Loved ones said Smith, who is mentally incompetent and has congestive heart disease, and is suffering from kidney failure, somehow managed to walk out of the hospital Monday afternoon.

“I think the first thing you do when you find out is call the police then the family,” Smith’s cousin said.

According to the family and East Point police, that’s not what happened.

They said two hours after he went missing, Smith’s daughter got a voicemail from a hospital staffer saying:

“Hey, I’m calling for Atlanta Medical South campus. Mr. Smith, we are not able to find him. His bag is in the room. He was walking around …45 minutes to 1 hour. We can’t find him. So, I just wanted to let you know just in case he contacts you. Let us know.”

Scared, the family told Channel 2 Action News they rushed to the hospital, but when they got there, they said, the nurses wouldn't give them a straight answer as to how this happened.

Channel 2 Action News reached out to the hospital and they released the following statement:

“The safety of our patients, visitors and employees is our top priority. When one of our patients left the hospital yesterday, we contacted his family. We are working with local authorities.”

“It’s not fair to the family. It’s not. It’s not fair at all because if anything happened to him it’s because of the nurses not doing their jobs,” Smith’s aunt said.

Smith is being treated at another local hospital.