The case of a San Francisco woman who went missing during a stay at S.F. General only to be found dead, weeks later, in a hospital stairwell, just keeps getting worse as transcripts of Sheriff's Department phone calls in the case have been released to the public. The hospital recorded the calls with sheriff's deputies following the discovery of Lynne Spalding's body on October 8, 2013, and in them the deputies show "a dehumanizing lack of compassion" and "callous incompetency" with regard to the case, according to a new statement by a spokesman for Spalding's friends and family.
In one of the phone calls, recorded on October 8, an unnamed deputy reacts to the finding of the body thusly:
"No, I didn’t smell her, but two of our guys fucked 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."
The part about them not doing their job seems pretty obvious at this point: Spalding, who was 57, went missing on September 21. Though at least one doctor says Spalding was extremely confused and was not ready to be released, the Sheriff's Department later described the situation as "[Spalding] decided to take off and then her daughter made a stink about it, that’s all that was." It would be another nine days, on September 30, before the cops gave in and did a "thorough" search of the hospital, but they apparently neglected several stairwells because Spalding was not found. The Sheriff's Department also received a report of a woman lying in a hospital stairwell on October 4, but it appears they did nothing about it. According to an attorney for the Sheriff's Department, overtime issues appear to have been a factor with regard to the stairwell searches.
The Chron is also reporting on the incompetency of the hospital, which had assigned a full-time monitor to Spalding after an alarm attached to her bed had been disabled. The alarm was disabled precisely because Spalding was delirious and was repeatedly getting out of bed. The monitor was not present when Spalding got dressed and left her room.
Though a few staffing changes have been made by Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi at the hospital, no one has lost a job over this, and Spalding's family and friends are still crying foul saying saying "No one has yet to answer for or suffer meaningful consequences following the death. Lynne’s family and friends demand justice and full accountability."
It was later determined by the medical examiner's office that Spalding died of complications from an electrolyte imbalance caused by alcoholism. Also, she had delirium from clinical sepsis. She was found in her own clothing after staying two days in the hospital for treatment of a bladder infection, and had perhaps been trying to leave the hospital of her own volition when she collapsed. She had not yet been discharged.
There are also some racially weird aspects to the story: Initial reports were that the missing woman was African American and wearing a hospital gown, and the Sheriff's Department apparently did not learn that Spalding was white until a missing person's flyer went up six days after she disappeared.
The tragic story serves to confirm that SF General is a vast, chaotic, and scary place you never want to be, and that the Sherrif's Department doesn't always treat missing persons cases that seriously.