Missing patient found dead in San Francisco hospital stairwell

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 10:29am

A British-born woman who mysteriously disappeared from her San Francisco hospital bed was found dead 17 days later in a stairwell in the same medical centre, after a massive search that saw tour bus operators hand out flyers.

A San Francisco General Hospital worker found the body of Lynne Spalding, 57, during a routine check of the exterior stairway on Tuesday.

Spalding was admitted to the hospital on September 19 and was last seen in bed two days later, said Todd May, the hospital's chief medical officer.

The sheriff's department claimed to have searched the hospital, while hundreds of friends and relatives handed out leaflets throughout the Bay Area in a vain attempt to find Spalding.

"It certainly boggles the mind that while we were searching, Lynne was either dead or dying inside the hospital," family spokesman David Perry said. "There is something systemically wrong with how this was handled."

May appeared contrite. "What happened at our hospital is horrible," he said. "This has shaken us to our core. We don't know what happened to this woman."

Perry said Spalding went to hospital after losing weight and appearing disoriented. He said he believed she had been diagnosed with a bladder infection.

Hospital officials said only that she was in a fair condition when she disappeared.

May said the exterior stairwell where Spalding was found was locked from the outside and equipped with an alarm. It was unclear how far the stairway was from her bed.

Perry described Spalding as "feisty". "She filled a room," he said. "I hardly ever saw her when she wasn't smiling." She leaves a son, 19, and daughter, 23.