Answers sought in SF hospital disappearance, death

Answers sought in SF hospital disappearance, death

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Family and friends of a patient who disappeared from her room only to be found dead in a hospital stairwell more than two weeks later demanded answers from authorities and medical officials, who said they, too, were horrified at what happened to Lynne Spalding.

"We need to know what Lynne's condition was. We need to know what she was being treated for and frankly we need to know what medications she was on and what state of mind she was in," Spalding's friend and family spokesman David Perry said Wednesday. "We're not trying to place blame. We're trying to find answers. And anyone if found in the stairwell of a hospital, it's disturbing."

The medical examiner's office confirmed on Thursday that the body was that of 57-year-old Lynne Spalding of San Francisco.

Spalding had been missing for 17 days before she was found on Tuesday in a fourth-floor stairwell during a routine check. San Francisco General Hospital Chief Operating Officer Roland Pickens told the San Francisco Chronicle ( ) the stairwell was several hundred feet from the unit where Spalding was being treated.

Another hospital official, chief nursing officer Terry Dentoni, told the newspaper the woman was being treated in a medical-surgical unit, which is for patients who require less attention. It's unclear where her room was in the unit.

"What happened at our hospital is horrible," San Francisco General Hospital Chief Medical Officer Todd May said at a Wednesday news conference. "We are here to take care of patients, to heal them, to keep them safe. This has shaken us to our core. Our staff is devastated."

The Sheriff's Department doesn't know how long Spalding was in the stairwell, which is part of a rarely used fire exit with an alarm on it, Assistant Sheriff Paul Miyamoto said.

"All of us are committed to learning what happened and ensuring it never happens again," he said.

Spalding was taken to the hospital because she had lost weight and appeared disoriented and weak, and her family and friends were concerned about her physical state. She was admitted for a bladder or urinary tract infection on Sept. 19 and was reported missing from her room two days later.

Spalding's relatives and friends spent days "scouring the streets of San Francisco with fliers because we were under the assumption that San Francisco General had been searched and Lynne was not here," Perry said at a news conference at the hospital.

"I hear that the San Francisco Sheriff's Department initiated a search. Well, evidently it wasn't a very good one. I think there are a lot of questions to be asked."

Perry said Spalding had worked in the travel industry and lived in the city's Mission District with her 23-year-old daughter.

During the two nights she spent at San Francisco General, Spalding seemed to be getting better and her condition was upgraded to fair, May said. Nurses were checking on her every 15 minutes, and she disappeared in the brief time between those visits, May said.

Spalding's family filed a missing person's report with police, who have been investigating her disappearance.

The Sheriff's Department, which provides security at the city-owned hospital, is conducting an internal investigation of its security measures.