By Jaxon Van Derbeken 10/29/14
A San Francisco Sheriff’s Department dispatcher has been fired for failing to act on a report of a person in a San Francisco General Hospital stairwell, which turned out to be a missing patient who was found dead a week later, authorities said Tuesday.
Lynne Spalding, 57, was found Oct. 8, 2013, after a routine search of the same stairwell where a doctor reported finding a woman Oct. 1 and notified a nurse. The nurse contacted the sheriff’s dispatcher, who said, “We’ll take care of it.”
However, no deputies searched the stairwell that day, and the dispatcher did not log the nurse’s call. The doctor who reported seeing the woman came forward after Spalding’s body was found.
The dispatcher has been fired and two sheriff’s supervisors have been suspended, according to officials with knowledge of the case. Another five sheriff’s employees were notified this month that they face discipline.
Spalding vanished Sept. 21, 2013, after apparently becoming disoriented while being treated for a bladder infection. She was supposed to be monitored around the clock, but the hospital turned off the bed alarm and her assigned monitor was called away shortly before she disappeared.
An autopsy found that Spalding died of apparent dehydration and liver problems related to chronic alcoholism. The medical examiner’s report said she had been dead “for some days before being found,” but did not estimate how many.
Senior Deputy Enrique Luquin did not identify the dispatcher who was fired or the supervisors or other employees who could face discipline. The dispatcher was terminated in January, while one supervisor was suspended in February and the other in March, for an undisclosed number of days.
Harry Stern, an attorney whose firm represents some of the sheriff’s employees, said deputies facing possible suspension “all had minimal involvement in the incident. The allegations pending against them concern a variety of rule violations that have to do with how the incident was handled after it was reported.”