SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Family and friends of 57-year-old Lynne Spalding are asking for more details about how she was found dead in a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell more than two weeks after she disappeared from her hospital bed.
Dr. Todd May, San Francisco General Hospital’s chief medical officer, confirmed at a news conference Wednesday morning that a body found Tuesday at the hospital was that of Spalding.
“What happened at our hospital is horrible,” May said. “This has shaken us to our core.”
Spalding was admitted to the hospital on Sept. 19 for an infection and two days later slipped out of her bed and disappeared.
Family members said they were concerned she may have been confused because of medication she was taking and said she was unwell and frail.
May said Spalding had improved during her two days at the hospital and was in “fair condition” at the time she disappeared.
May said the medical examiner has not officially confirmed Spalding’s identity or other details of the death, but the hospital has contacted her family and told them they believe the body is hers.
He said the hospital staff is “committed to getting to the root cause of this tragedy.”
“We need to make sure this never happens again,” he said.
San Francisco Assistant Sheriff Paul Miyamoto said Spalding was found on Tuesday morning by an engineering staff member in a stairwell equipped with an alarm and a door that locks from the outside and leads to the hospital grounds.
Miyamoto said staff, patients and the public do not routinely use that exterior stairway.
The hospital employee was conducting a routine quarterly check of certain stairwells on the campus. The stairwell where Spalding was found had not been previously searched when she was first reported missing, Miyamoto said.
He said his department, which provides security and law enforcement at the hospital, would be looking into hospital alarm and search procedures.
Immediately after Spalding was reporting missing, family and friends put together a massive search effort for the British woman, who had been prominent in the San Francisco travel industry and previously worked for the San Francisco Travel Association.
Family spokesman David Perry said Spalding’s 23-year-old daughter is “beyond words” and Spalding’s boyfriend is “devastated.”
She had lived less than a dozen blocks away from the hospital in the city’s Mission District.
“This is a nightmare,” Perry said.
Perry said he had worked with Spalding in the communications industry and considered her a friend. A week before her disappearance, he had sent her a good-luck email for a meeting she was scheduled to attend.
“Steps must be taken so that this never happens again,” he said.
Perry, who led the search effort, said he was under the impression that the entire hospital had been scoured before volunteers fanned out and posted flyers throughout the city and beyond.
He said he finds the situation “perplexing and troubling.”
Family and friends have asked for more information about search protocols at the hospital and details on how the search unfolded. They are also demanding information about cameras and other security measures for patients and their families.
Through family members, Perry was told that Spalding had been staying in a fifth-floor room near a nurses’ station and that the stairwell she was found in hadn’t been inspected since July.
Perry remembered Spalding as a “very popular woman” and a “consummate professional” who loved talking about San Francisco and had a big laugh and a thick British accent.
“She was just a lovely human being,” he said.
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