$3M Proposed in Settlement to Family of Missing SFGH Patient Found Dead

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors will vote Tuesday on whether to authorize a settlement of nearly $3 million to the family of Lynne Spalding, who was found dead in a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell in October 2013 after going missing there 17 days earlier.

Spalding, 57, was admitted to the hospital for an infection on Sept. 19, 2013, and went missing two days later. She was found dead on a fourth-floor stairwell on Oct. 8.

Spalding’s two children, Liam and Simone Ford, as well as the Estate of Lynne Spalding, filed the claim in March against the city, which oversees San Francisco General Hospital as well as the sheriff’s department, which provides security services there.

The Department of Public Health and the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department recommended a payment of $2,941,000 to Spalding’s children and estate.

If the board approves the settlement, the city will pay almost $3 million to Spalding’s family and estate. If the board rejects the claim, a lawsuit is expected to follow.

The 22-page claim states that Spalding’s death was the result of “reckless neglect of her care; professional negligence by her health care providers; negligence; and, the creation and maintenance of a dangerous condition of public property.”

The family’s attorney Haig Harris said the hospital failed to keep track of Spalding, whom a doctor ordered not to be left unattended because of her mental state, and the sheriff’s department failed in its responsibilities to find and rescue her.

The department has acknowledged that sheriff’s deputies were asked to search the entire hospital campus for Spalding but failed to do so.

Deputies also failed to follow up on an Oct. 4 report of a person lying in a stairwell at the hospital.

Harris said the layout of the hospital also contributed to Spalding’s death — particularly that the doors to the emergency exit stairwells were not adequately equipped with alarms to notify authorities that someone had gone in there and that once in the stairwell, a person would find themselves locked out.

He said Spalding, who worked in San Francisco’s travel industry, “was a spectacularly admired person” and was close with her children.

Following Spalding’s death, the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center conducted an independent review of San Francisco General Hospital’s policies and procedures.

The review recommended steps including the appointment of a full-time hospital security program manager, the provision of more space for a security operations center and investments in new security equipment and technology, according to hospital officials.

Changes already made prior to the review include daily stairwell checks, improved door alarms and routine checks on patients when alarms are activated, as well as development of a missing patient policy.

In addition, the sheriff’s department made staffing changes including reassigning a dispatcher, two senior deputies and a sergeant away from the facility and assigning a captain, two lieutenants, two sergeants and two senior deputies there.

Other changes include the development of a comprehensive security management plan, an orientation and training program and the development of a security check-list for regular rounds, according to hospital officials.

Authorities also found technical problems with door alarms and surveillance cameras at the hospital and determined that hospital officials initially issued an incorrect description of Spalding to deputies, describing her as a black woman wearing a hospital gown. Spalding was white and was wearing her own clothing when she was found.

Hannah Albarazi, Bay City News

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