A little more than two weeks after a 57-year-old patient disappeared San Francisco General Hospital, the county coroner confirmed late Wednesday that the body found in a stairwell this week was that of Lynne Spalding.
A family friend posted the news on Facebook just before 10 p.m. Wednesday.
At an earlier morning news conference at the hospital, officials had indicated they were "fairly certain" that the body had belonged to Spalding, though they weren't 100 percent sure.
Still, despite the announcement, questions swirled about how Spalding – a British native who worked in hospitality sales – could have ended up in a remote stairwell on the fourth floor. Spalding had entered the hospital on Sept. 19 with a urinary tract infection, and was last seen on Sept. 21. A friend said she had been feeling disoriented on her medication, but a doctor on Wednesday said her condition had been improving.
"We have no idea how this happened," Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Todd May. "We are shaken to our core. What happened at the hospital is horrible. Our staff is devastated.”
Hospital staff and sheriff's deputies took no questions from reporters, and did not explain the circumstances of her death, including the timing until Tuesday morning when she was found by a member of the engineering staff on a routine check – 17 days after she walked off from her hospital room. Authorities also did not offer an explanation as to how a missing patient could be lost for more than two weeks only to be found dead in a hospital stairwell. The stairwell is a fire exit that has an alarm on it, and is locked from the outside and exits onto hospital grounds.
A nurse who first spotted Spalding missing from her room alerted the proper authorities more than two weeks ago, prompting San Francisco sheriff's deputies to search the hospital, authorities said.
But a family spokesperson said he is "perplexed" as to how Spalding remained missing for so long if these searches had been conducted. He lauded the hospital as "stellar" but had biting words when it came to his friend's disappearance.
"Lynne Spalding died alone in a stairwell and her body had been there for 17 days," said David Perry, a family friend.
Perry, clearly angry about the circumstances of his friend's death, also noted that it took 10 days for the hospital to issue a statement about the fact that a patient had gone missing in the first place. He was among the many friends and family who spent countless hours searching for her, putting up fliers and sharing her story on social media, including on a FIND LYNNE Facebook page.
Perry said Spalding's boyfriend "is devastated" and her daughter "is beyond words" by the loss, though the two were not in attendance at the conference.
Perry said he appreciated that the hospital came forward so quickly with the news on Spalding, but he said he is not satisfied with the information that has so far been presented.
“This is a nightmare," Perry said. "Steps must be taken to make sure this never happens again."
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, hospital staff must now manually deactivate security alarms that go off and do sweeps of the building's fire escapes and stairwells.
UCSF will also conduct an independent review of the hospital's security and safety systems.