SAN FRANCISCO—A newspaper is reporting that nurses at a San Francisco hospital didn't heed a doctor's orders to maintain a constant watch on a patient who ended up leaving her room and was found dead in a stairwell 17 days later.

Citing the results of a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services investigation, the San Francisco Chronicle says (http://bit.ly/Ln1qkB) a doctor had instructed staff at San Francisco General Hospital in writing never to leave Lynne Spalding unattended.

Spalding was admitted on Sept. 19 for a bladder infection and disorientation. A day later, after the 57-year-old woman had wandered into a nursing station, a doctor reminded a nurse that the patient needed around-the-clock observation.

The report contradicts the account hospital officials gave after Spalding's body was discovered. They said nurses were instructed to check on Spalding every 15 minutes.