A week after a missing woman was found dead on a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell, her family is still awaiting answers from authorities and thinks legislation might be necessary to prevent a similar case from happening again.
Lynne Spalding, a 57-year-old woman who had been admitted to the hospital for an infection on Sept. 19, disappeared two days later.
Spalding, who family members said was frail and may have been confused due to medication she was taking, remained missing for more than two weeks despite searches of the hospital and surrounding neighborhoods.
Then on Oct. 8, she was found dead by a hospital employee doing routine inspections and was in a stairwell that had not been checked during the previous searches.
Authorities have not released how Spalding got into the stairwell, which was locked from the outside and had an alarm on the door, according to San Francisco sheriff’s officials who are in charge of security for the hospital.
Sheriff’s spokeswoman Susan Fahey said there was no update as of today on the case.
The medical examiner’s office has also not released the cause of Spalding’s death and has not released the body to her family, said David Perry, a spokesman for the family.
Perry said the family is asking authorities for an update on the case.
“It’s a week on, we’d like to get some sense of where we are,” he said.
He said because the body has not been released to the family, they also cannot yet move forward with memorial services for her.
Mayor Ed Lee announced on Friday that the University of California San Francisco Medical Center would also undertake an independent review of San Francisco General Hospital’s safety and security systems.
Perry said while the family waits for the results of the various investigations, they also think legislation might be necessary to require the installation of cameras at all entrances and exits to hospitals.
“We think frankly, if it comes out, it should be called Lynne’s Law,” he said.
San Francisco General Hospital spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said installing cameras at every entrance and exit could be a recommendation from the UCSF independent review.
“We’ll certainly look forward to the recommendations that come out of that,” Kagan said.
She said SFGH officials have already taken steps to improve security of the hospital’s fire stairwells, including doing daily sweeps of them, updating the alarms on the stairwells and requiring an automatic security check by a sheriff’s deputy if an alarm is triggered.
She said there was no timeline for when the various investigations will finish, but said the hospital is also waiting for the results.
“We want to find out exactly what happened to her to make sure it never happens to anyone again,” Kagan said.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News