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SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Family and friends of a patient who disappeared from her room only to be found dead in a hospital stairwell more than two weeks later demanded answers from authorities and medical officials, who said they too were "horrified" at what happened to Lynne Spalding.
"We need to know what Lynne's condition was. We need to know what she was being treated for and frankly we need to know what medications she was on and what state of mind she was in," Spalding's friend and family spokesman David Perry said Wednesday. "We're not trying to place blame. We're trying to find answers. And anyone is found in the stairwell of a hospital it's disturbing."
San Francisco General Hospital Chief Medical Officer Todd May said officials were still awaiting official confirmation of the Spalding's identity and her cause of death from the medical examiner. But he said the hospital had enough information to conclude the body discovered in the fourth-floor stairwell this week during a routine check belonged to the 57-year-old Spalding.
She had been missing for 17 days.
"What happened at our hospital is horrible," a visibly emotional May said at a news conference. "We are here to take care of patients, to heal them, to keep them safe. This has shaken us to our core. Our staff is devastated."
The Sheriff's Department did not yet know how long Spalding had been in the stairwell, which is part of a rarely used fire exit with an alarm on it, Assistant Sheriff Paul Miyamoto said.
"All of us are committed to learning what happened and insuring it never happens again," Miyamoto said.
Spalding was admitted for a bladder or urinary tract infection on Sept. 19 and was reported missing from her room there two days later, Spalding said. She was taken to the hospital because her family and friends were concerned about her physical state. She had lost weight and appeared disoriented and weak
Spalding's relatives and friends spent days "scouring the streets of San Francisco with flyers because we were under the assumption that San Francisco General had been searched and Lynne was not here," Perry said at a news conference at the hospital.
"I hear that the San Francisco Sheriff's Department initiated a search. Well, evidently it wasn't a very good one. I think there are a lot of questions to be asked."
Perry said Spalding had worked in the travel industry and she lived not far from the hospital in the city's Mission District with her 23-year-old daughter.
During the two nights she spent at San Francisco General, Spalding seemed to be getting better and her condition was upgraded to fair, May said. Nurses were checking on her every 15 minutes, and she disappeared in the brief time between those visits, May said.
Spalding's family filed a missing person's report with police, who have been investigating her disappearance.
The Sheriff's Department, which provides security at the city-owned hospital, is conducting an internal investigation of its security measures.