Family and friends of a woman found dead in a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell in October expressed outrage Wednesday over documents released that show Sheriff’s Department officials apparently making light of the case in phone calls recorded at the hospital.
The department this week released transcripts of hospital phone calls regarding Lynne Spalding, a 57-year-old woman who was admitted to San Francisco General on Sept. 19 for an infection and was reported missing two days later.
She was found dead in a fourth-floor stairwell Oct. 8, and the transcripts show “callous incompetency” by the Sheriff’s Department, a spokesman for Spalding’s family and friends said.
In one of the transcripts, dated Oct. 8, an unnamed sheriff’s deputy said, “No, I didn’t smell her, but two of our guys f***ed 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.”
Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has said hospital officials asked his department to search the entire 24-acre campus after Spalding had already been missing for more than a week.
A day later, it was determined that not all stairwells had been searched and staff members were directed to search them, but only half of the stairwells were searched, Mirkarimi said.
On Oct. 4, sheriff’s officials also received a report of someone lying on a stairwell in the hospital, but there is no indication that anyone ever went to follow up on the report, the sheriff said.
The transcripts released this week also show confusion over the initial details of Spalding’s disappearance. The first reports within the hospital indicated that she was black and wearing a hospital gown, but she was white and found dead wearing her own clothing.
In a transcript dated Sept. 21, the date of Spalding’s disappearance, an unnamed deputy characterized the case as someone who “was going to be discharged anyway.”
Mirkarimi later said a physician told a deputy that Spalding was very confused and not safe to be out on her own.
A medical examiner’s report on Spalding’s death concluded that she died of electrolyte imbalance — a condition that can be caused by dehydration — and delirium due to clinical sepsis.
David Perry, a spokesman for Spalding’s friends and family, said in a statement Wednesday that transcripts “reveal a dehumanizing lack of compassion and a disregard of minimum professionalism that are shameful.”