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article imageSan Francisco to pay nearly $3 million to family of lost patient

By Nathan Salant     Dec 15, 2014 in Health
San Francisco has agreed to pay nearly all of a $3 million legal settlement with the family of a woman who was found dead 17 days after disappearing from a room at the city's main hospital last year.
Proceeds from the settlement will be set aside to benefit Lynne Spalding's two children, Liam and Simone, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.
The tragedy exposed serious communications and security breakdowns at 600-bed San Francisco General Hospital, by far the city's largest.
The failure to find Spalding for more two weeks was "outrageous," family attorney Haig Harris told the newspaper, and resulted in the firing of a dispatcher and the disciplining of five San Francisco Sheriff's Department deputies.
Spalding was supposed to have been monitored by nurses after being admitted on Sept. 19, 2013, for treatment of an infection that had left her disoriented and weak, but no one noticed her leaving her room via a little-used outdoor stairwell.
Her body was not found in the stairwell for 17 days despite regular grounds checks by the sheriff's department and reports of a woman being seen in the stairwell days earlier, the newspaper said.
County sheriff's deputies provide security at the hospital.
“No amount of money will bring back the mother of these two children,” said Haig Harris, the family's attorney.
“We hope that this case will provide new systems to protect all patients from this tragic loss of life,” he said.
The city's Board of Supervisors is scheduled to vote to approve San Francisco's contribution to the settlement on Tuesday., the newspaper said.
Harris said the city will pay $2.941 million and the University of California, which supplies doctors and nurses to San Francisco General, will pay $59,000 of the total $3 million settlement.
An autopsy found Spalding had died of dehydration and liver problems associated with alcoholism, and said she had been dead for several days by the time the body was found.
A spokesman for the San Francisco City Attorney's Office called the agreement a "fair and just settlement," the newspaper said.
"We are glad we were able to resolve it without the costs, risk and heartache of litigation,” spokesman Matt Dorsey told the Chronicle.
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