Report highlights security recommendations at SF General 

click to enlarge San Francisco General Hospital
  • mike koozmin/2013 S.f. Examiner file photo
  • A new report suggests ways San Francisco General Hospital can keep patients from wandering.
San Francisco General Hospital is taking steps toward fulfilling increased security measures highlighted in a review that was ordered after a missing patient’s body was discovered in a stairwell in October.

Released last week, the five-month security review was conducted by the UCSF Medical Center at the request of Mayor Ed Lee following the death of Lynne Spalding. The 57-year-old’s body was found Oct. 8 in a fourth-floor stairwell at S.F. General after she disappeared from her room more than two weeks earlier.

In light of the report, the hospital has begun working to implement recommendations such as hiring a full-time hospital security program manager and investing in state-of-the-art security equipment.

“We are pursuing these recommendations but don’t have an exact plan yet for how we will do it or to what degree we will follow the review,” Department of Public Health spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said Monday.

The appointment of a security program manager had been explored prior to the completion of the report, according to Kagan, and the hospital is considering bringing in a consultant to help create the position.

Other recommendations include a number of security equipment and technology upgrades such as a “fully integrated IT system” with cameras and data-tracking software that would essentially “allow security teams to have eyes and ears all over campus,” according to Kagan.

The hospital has begun acting on a comprehensive security management plan and an orientation and training program, along with developing a security check-list to be part of regular staff rounds - all of which were suggested in the report.

According to the review, improvements that have previously been put into place include daily emergency stairwell checks, converting door alarms to continuous audible alarms requiring deactivation, requesting nurse checks for all patients when alarms are activated, and developing a missing-patient policy and procedure.

Hospital officials say the new security procedures have already proven to be effective, as an at-risk female patient who went missing at the end of January was found safe less than 24 hours later. Kagan said the hospital is grateful to the review for the chance to reevaluate procedures.

“We were pleased to have the opportunity to have a neighboring hospital take a global look at security operations on campus,” she said. “We will continue to work with the Mayor’s Office, along with UCSF, as we go along evaluating and studying the recommendations and determining which ones to pursue and in what order.”

Security for the hospital is primarily under the authority of the Sheriff’s Department, but the hospital also contracts with a private security company for facilities on campus that aren’t part of the main hospital.

About The Author

Laura Dudnick

Laura Dudnick, a Bay Area native, covers education and planning for The San Francisco Examiner. She previously worked as a senior local editor for, and as the San Mateo County bureau reporter and weekend editor for Bay City News Service.
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