Report says hospital did not search for patient who was missing
Hospital leaders never ordered a full search for a missing San Francisco hospital patient until nine days after she disappeared, according to a recent report that alleges a series of errors by the hospital.
San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi released a report on the investigation, prompted after the body of 57-year-old Lynne Spalding Ford was found in a stairway at San Francisco General Hospital. She had been missing for nine days.
Mirkarimi’s report states that the Spalding Ford checked into the hospital Sept. 19, 2013, for a bladder infection. On the morning of Sept. 21, a hospital employee called the sheriff’s department and reported that Spalding Ford has been missing for 40 minutes. (The sheriff’s department oversees security at the hospital.).The caller also described the patient as African-American, but a sheriff’s report later described her as Asian.
Authorities made a perimeter search of the hospital grounds, but deputies did not immediately classify the woman as a missing person, the report says. Evening shift deputies stationed at the hospital were not notified about Spalding Ford by the earlier deputies.
Four days after Spalding Ford’s disappearance, the San Francisco Police Department asked the sheriff’s department to pull surveillance video to see if there are any images of the patient leaving, but there were technical problems with viewing the tape.
Nine days after Spalding Ford was reported missing, the hospital asked sheriff’s deputies to search its entire 24-acre campus. They did, but the search did not include all stairwells. On Oct. 1, a deputy realized the stairwells had not been searched and began searching them. But still only about half of them were searched. On Oct. 4, a hospital employee told the sheriff’s department that someone reported a person lying on the third- or fourth-floor landing of Stairwell 8.
"The Communications Center staff responded, We’ll take care of it,’" the sheriff said in a news conference announcing the report. "There is no indication that anyone was dispatched to that stairwell."
On Oct. 8, a hospital engineering employee who was conducting a routine check found Spalding Ford’s body in an exterior stairwell. The hospital and sheriff’s department said the stairwell is "a fire exit that is not routinely used by staff, patients, or the public." The stairwell door was alarmed, but it is not clear if it sounded.
Mirkarimi said his department will review policies and procedures regarding missing patients and campus searches.