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The state Health Department and hospice officials were continuing to investigate the death of a 76-year-old terminally ill Buffalo man who apparently walked out of the Cheektowaga facility and was found dead outside the building.

The man was discovered at 5:42 a.m. Wednesday outside the emergency exit of the Center for Hospice & Palliative Care's in-patient building on Como Park Boulevard. No foul play was suspected, and Cheektowaga police say everything indicates the man died of natural causes.

"We don't believe that he was outside for more than a few minutes," said William E. Finn, president and chief executive officer of the facility.

Because of the patient's declining condition, staff members had checked on him every 15 minutes, hospice officials said. He had been in his bed at 5:15 a.m., but was missing at the 5:30 a.m. check.

"In accordance with our policies and training, the hospice staff immediately initiated our emergency-action plan to locate him," hospice officials said in a statement. "A facility-wide search was conducted, and within 12 minutes, he was found outside the facility, near the unit's emergency exit."

A staff member spotted the man when arriving for work.

The alarm on the emergency door had been functioning when it was checked Tuesday, officials said.

"We're investigating why that alarm didn't go off," said Rosemary Collins, public relations manager at the hospice.

Citing confidentiality issues, hospice officials wouldn't say anything about the man's condition, except that he had been admitted to a unit that treats the terminally ill who need acute care.

Hospice officials have been trying to comfort his family.

"This is the first time in our history that we've had an event like this," Finn said. "We're all upset by it."


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