Lynne Spalding: Here's What SFGH Is Doing to Make Hospital Safer After Missing Patient Found Dead

Categories: Local News

Lynne Spalding was missing for nearly three weeks before her body was found in a stairwell at the hospital.
Yesterday, Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi stood before reporters to detail the long list of mistakes his department made in handling the case of Lynne Spalding, the 57-year-old hospital patient who was found dead in a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell weeks after she was reported missing.

In response to those mistakes, SFGH staff has outlined a series of things they are doing and plan to do to ensure that nothing this egregious happens ever again, starting with checking the hospital stairwells daily.

"Our security arrangement must respond to the needs of our patients and staff," Barbara Garcia, director of health, said yesterday evening. "It must be so difficult for Lynne Spalding's family and friends to hear today's news. We owe it to them, and to all our current and future patients, to strengthen our security services."

So here's a list of changes San Francisco General Hospital is making, starting right now:

  • Conducting an independent review of hospital security and facilities systems by UCSF; its first priority is a review of security system controls for SFGH patient care buildings. The first recommendations are expected in 30 to 90 days.

  • A new program started this week aimed to retrain and reorient all Sheriff's Department staff on the SFGH campus.

  • Considering expanding existing private security contracts to make up for current shortfalls.

  • The Director of Health is working with the Health Commission to seek near and long-term solutions to ensure patient and staff safety.

In addition to the "next steps" outlined above, the hospital says it has already done a few other things to tighten up security around the emergency exit stairwells. Those steps include:

  • Daily emergency stairwell checks by sheriff deputies

  • Updated all emergency stairwell door alarms to now require deactivation with a key (note that none of these alarms were deficient, broken or inoperable; they just weren't all set to require manual deactivation.)

  • Now when a stairwell alarm rings, it triggers a security check by sheriff deputies

  • When a stairwell alarm rings, and the stairwell is near a patient care unit, the charge nurse immediately checks the unit to ensure that all patients are accounted for.

Spalding checked into the hospital on Sept. 19 to be treated for an infection. The hospital staff was checking on her every 15 minutes until she vanished from her hospital bed on Sept. 21. Authorities claim they combed the hospital -- but not thoroughly -- but found no sign of Spalding. Her body was found three weeks later in a rarely used hospital stairwell.

Having said that, Garcia assures us that with these new steps in place, patients are safer now more than they've ever been before.

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