Family and friends of a woman found dead in a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell in October expressed outrage today over documents released that show sheriff’s officials apparently making light of the case in phone calls recorded at the hospital.
The sheriff’s department this week released transcripts of hospital phone calls regarding the case of Lynne Spalding, a 57-year-old woman who was admitted to SFGH on Sept. 19 for an infection and was reported missing two days later.
She was found dead in a fourth-floor stairwell on Oct. 8, and the transcripts show “callous incompetency” by the sheriff’s department, a spokesman for Spalding’s family and friends said.
In one of the transcripts dated Oct. 8, an unnamed sheriff’s deputy said, “No, I didn’t smell her, but two of our guys f—ed up big time. They are both trying to blame the other one, but they didn’t do their job, nothing new. I’m just laughing.”
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has said hospital officials asked the sheriff’s department to search the entire 24-acre campus after Spalding had already been missing for more than a week.
A day later, it was determined that not all stairwells had been searched and staff was directed to search them, but only half of the stairwells were searched, Mirkarimi said.
On Oct. 4, sheriff’s officials also received a report of someone lying on a stairwell in the hospital, but there is no indication that anyone ever went to follow up on the report, the sheriff said.
The transcripts released this week also show confusion over the initial details of Spalding’s disappearance. The first reports within the hospital indicated that she was black and wearing a hospital gown, but she was white and found dead wearing her own clothing.
In a transcript dated Sept. 21, the date of Spalding’s disappearance, an unnamed deputy characterized the case as someone who “was going to be discharged anyway.”
The deputy said Spalding “decided to take off and then her daughter made a stink about it, that’s all that was. That’s already been handled,” according to the transcript.
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi later said a physician told a deputy that Spalding was very confused and not safe to be out on her own.
A medical examiner’s report on Spalding’s death concluded that she died of electrolyte imbalance—a condition that can be caused by dehydration—and delirium due to clinical sepsis.
David Perry, a spokesman for Perry’s friends and family, said in a statement today that the transcripts “reveal a dehumanizing lack of compassion and a disregard of minimum professionalism that are shameful.”
Perry said, “These recordings prove what we have been saying since … Lynne went missing: no one at SF General or the SF Sheriff’s Department took this case seriously.”
“No one has yet to answer for or suffer meaningful consequences following the death,” he said. “Lynne’s family and friends demand justice and full accountability.”
Mirkarimi has since made staffing changes at the hospital, reassigning a dispatcher, two senior deputies and a sergeant away from the site.
A captain, two lieutenants, two sergeants and two senior deputies were brought in as additional security at the hospital.
Mayor Ed Lee announced that the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center is also undertaking an independent review of San Francisco General Hospital’s safety and security systems.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News