An unidentified body discovered in a stairwell at San Francisco General Hospital on Tuesday has stirred the worst fears of the family of a San Francisco woman who disappeared from her hospital bed Sept. 21.
While the body has yet to be identified, family members of Lynne Spalding have expressed their frustration with how the hospital has dealt with her disappearance and their shock at the discovery of what may be their dead relative.
“We have been begging San Francisco General for [answers for] 19 days, and the answer just left in that van,” said an emotional David Perry, a family friend and spokesman, as the unidentified body was rolled out of the hospital on a gurney Tuesday afternoon. “San Francisco General has a lot of questions to answer.”
S.F. General spokeswoman Rachael Kagan said the hospital has been working with Spalding’s family since she went missing, but said little about what implications there are if the body is indeed Spalding.
“We’ve been in touch with the family through this whole episode,” she said.
The unidentified woman’s body was found by an engineer who was performing a quarterly inspection of an emergency stairwell around 10 a.m. Tuesday, Kagan said.
It wasn’t known how long the woman had been on the stairway — which is used as a fire escape — or how she got there, Kagan said.
“It’s very concerning,” Kagan said. “We’re distressed and don’t know what happened. It’s our top priority to find out.”
The cause of the woman’s death was being investigated by the Sheriff’s Department and police.
The stairwell where the body was discovered is accessed through an emergency exit, which automatically sets off an alarm when opened.
Omar Lola, 28, a radiology lab assistant who was working on the fourth floor Tuesday, told The San Francisco Examiner that every time an emergency exit is opened it sets off an alarm. Only sheriff’s deputies with a special key are able to turn off the alarm, he added.
Lola said he had not heard the alarm go off for about eight months, but he was off for a week recently so he might have missed it.
Lola and other staff that spoke with The San Francisco Examiner said no one at the hospital informed them that anyone had gone missing from a bed. They had all learned about the missing woman from the news.
Kagan said the staff in the unit where Spalding went missing had been notified and a search of the area, and the entire hospital, occurred after a nurse discovered Spalding had gone missing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.