Sheriff's Staffing Changes at San Francisco General Following Patient Disappearance

By Bay City News
|  Friday, Nov 8, 2013  |  Updated 12:37 PM PDT
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Sheriff's Staffing Changes at SFGH Following Disappearance

San Francisco Sheriff's Department staffing changes have been made following Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi's admission of mistakes made by the department in the handling of a missing hospital patient at San Francisco General Hospital, the chief deputy sheriff said today.

On Wednesday, Mirkarimi held a news conference at City Hall where he disclosed initial findings about the death of Lynne Spalding, a 57-year-old British woman whose body was found in a hospital stairwell on Oct. 8 after she was reported missing Sept. 21.

The hospital contracts with the sheriff's department for security.

The sheriff revealed breakdowns in communication, including problems with identifying Spalding's race and physical description, and technology problems such as faulty hardware.

Requests for searches of stairwells and other information also got lost between sheriff's personnel in the days and weeks after she went missing from her hospital bed.

Spalding had been admitted to the hospital for an infection two days before her disappearance.

At the news conference, Mirkarimi said the department had already implemented new policies since Spalding's death, including daily patrols of fire exit stairwells and better documentation of alarms at the hospital.

He also spoke about staffing changes, which Chief Deputy Sheriff Kathy Gorwood outlined this morning.

According to Gorwood, one dispatcher, two senior deputies and a sergeant were assigned away from the hospital. In their place, a captain, two lieutenants, two sergeants and two senior deputies were brought to handle security at the hospital.

Those staffing changes are going into effect in the coming days, she said.

The changes bring in three additional sheriff's positions at the hospital, Gorwood said.

She said more reassignments at the hospital may occur in the coming weeks.

SF General officials also released information this week about "immediate next steps" the hospital will take in the wake of Spalding's death.

Some of those plans include receiving preliminary recommendations in the next 30 to 90 days from an independent review of the hospital's security and facility systems by the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center.

A re-training program for all sheriff's department staff on the SFGH campus started Wednesday, and the hospital is looking into adding private security contracts.

The city's Department of Public Health's Health Commission is also working with the hospital to improve patient care and safety, according to officials.

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