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Patient Missing for 17 Days Found Dead in SF Hospital Stairwell

Image: Patient Missing for 17 Days Found Dead in SF Hospital Stairwell Lynne Spalding

By Clyde Hughes   |   Thursday, 10 Oct 2013 11:39 AM

Family members of Lynne Spalding are demanding answers from San Francisco General Hospital as to how the 57-year-old patient went missing from their hospital only to be found dead in a stairwell at the facility 17 days later.

While a citywide search was going on for Spalding after she was reported missing from the hospital, a member of the building's engineering staff found her body Tuesday morning in what officials said was a remote exterior stairwell, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

"This is a nightmare," David Perry, Spalding family spokesman, told the Chronicle. "Lynne Spalding died alone, in a stairwell, in one of the finest medical institutions in this country. I hear that the San Francisco Sheriff's Department initiated a search. Well, evidently it wasn't a very good one."

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The newspaper reported that Spalding's 23-year-old daughter was notified Wednesday morning about the discovery, though officials were still seeking medical examiner's confirmation.

"The San Francisco Sheriff's Department and the San Francisco General staff are understandably shaken by this," Perry told the Chronicle. "We do not doubt that. We're not here to throw anyone under the bus. We're here for answers."

The San Jose Mercury News reported that Spalding, a British native, was last seen about 10:15 a.m. Sept. 21 by hospital employees who were treating her for a bladder infection. The discovery has left San Francisco General scrambling to explain how they missed her.

"What happened at our hospital is horrible," the hospital's chief medical officer Dr. Todd May said at a news conference, according to the Chronicle. "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. We don't know what happened to this woman."

The Chronicle reported that the hospital reported the discovery of Spalding's body to the California Department of Public Health's Center for Health Care Quality. The center's deputy director Debby Rogers told the newspaper that hospitals are required to report missing patients to them if the patient lacks decision-making capability.

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Rogers told the newspaper it is not known if Spalding lacked decision-making capabilities when she went missing, but family members said they believe she may have been disoriented.

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