A little less than two weeks after the discovery of a patient's body was found 17 days after she went missing in a stairwell at San Francisco General Hospital, another woman is now saying she, too, was locked for a time in a hospital stairwell when she was visiting her son in June.
Now, another woman told the San Francisco Examiner that she told authorities she was locked in a similar but unidentified stairwell at the hospital five months ago. She told the hospital about her situation on Oct. 10 - one day after the body of Lynne Spalding, 57, was found in a hospital stairwell - a story that made national news. The British native who had worked in hospital sales first went missing on Sept. 21 and wasn't found until Oct. 8. The 57-year-old woman had gone into the hospital for an infection on Sept. 19.
According to emails obtained by the Examiner, the San Luis Obispo County woman was visiting her son in the hospital five months ago and decided to skirt the elevator and walk down the stairs instead - there were no signs in the stairwell that stated the doors would automatically lock. An alarm sounded, but no security came, she wrote.
When the doors shut - and locked - behind her, the woman wrote "No one heard me" in an email to the hospital, the Examiner reported.
The woman said she kept banging on windows, and finally, a nurse opened one of the doors. She emailed the hospital her story, so hospital officials could compare her story to that of Spalding's.
The hospital told the Examiner that doors leading from emergency stairwells leading outside have no alarms.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reported this weekend that a hospital orderly may have come across Spalding’s body twice in the stairwell a week before she was discovered. The orderly told a nurse, who then notified sheriff’s deputies, according to the Chronicle, yet the body wasn’t discovered for another week.
Investigations by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and the hospital are underway, and at a news conference announcing the discovery of Spalding's body this month, hospital doctors were extremely apologetic.
Still, an attorney representing Spalding’s adult children, Haig Harris, says the reports are deeply unsettling.
“I can tell you everything is point to not just simple negligence in the loss of this woman but gross negligence in how her care and treatment and disappearance was handled,” Harris told NBC Bay Area. "It makes no sense."
And family friend and spokesman David Perry saids there are still many questions unanswered such as when Spalding actually died and what she died of. "This should trouble every single citizens of San Francisco," he said."
A hospital spokeswoman says SF General changed its protocols for responding to stairwell alarms following Spalding’s death.
An independent investigation into the incident by UCSF has not yet begun.