An orderly at San Francisco General Hospital reportedly told a hospital nurse that he saw an unconscious woman in a locked stairwell a week before authorities found a missing patient's body there.
Lynne Spalding, 57, disappeared from her room Sept. 21, two days after being admitted for an infection. Officials found her body in the locked stairwell Oct. 8.
The hospital orderly told a nurse Oct. 1 that he had seen an unconscious woman in the same spot where officials found Spalding and stepped over her body twice, once going downstairs and again when he returned using the same stairwell, according to The San Francisco Chronicle, citing sources familiar with the investigation into the patient's death.
There has been no official statement that Spalding was the woman the orderly discovered, but the revelation has sparked outrage for Spalding's family.
"I think what this tells us is what didn't happen in the hospital and it was what should have happened: immediate care and assistance for someone who's lying on a stairwell," Spalding family spokesman David Perry told "Good Morning America."
After the orderly told the nurse about what he'd seen, according to The Chronicle, the nurse contacted the Sheriff's Department, which provides security for the hospital. It's unclear how authorities responded to the call, the newspaper reported. It's possible no deputy responded, or that the deputy was dispatched to the wrong location, according to The Chronicle.
"The big question is now is: what did the Sheriff's Department know? And what did they do about this?" Audrey Cooper, managing editor of The Chronicle, told "GMA."
The Sheriff's Department said in a statement, "We are still investigating every aspect of this case."
San Francisco General said in a statement it is "committed to finding out exactly what happened so that it will never happen again."
It's unclear whether the woman was still alive when the orderly found her.
Spalding's family reported her missing the day she vanished and said she might have been confused by her medications and wandered away. Hospital personnel had been checking on her every 15 minutes, Perry, the family spokesman, said.
The cause of death has not been determined, but authorities do not suspect foul play.
Perry described what happened to Spalding as "inexcusable."
"It's a horrible, horrible nightmare," he added.