Roland Pickens, Laguna Honda’s interim CEO, said he is hopeful the current pause on patient transfers will be extended, allowing the hospital to continue working to address deficiencies cited by state and federal regulators.
At Tuesday’s hearing, other San Francisco leaders blasted federal officials for so far failing to respond to the city’s extension request, just days before the hospital could be required to resume patient transfers.
“This is a powerful and unaccountable bureaucracy,” Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said. “They [CMS] have done significant harm. They have created a ton of stress and anxiety for hundreds more people.”
Original story, 6 a.m. Tuesday: San Francisco officials are expected to find out this week whether federal regulators will allow the city to continue postponing the transfer of patients out of Laguna Honda Hospital.
An extension would allow patients and their families to breathe a temporary sigh of relief, just days before the recently decertified hospital could be required to resume relocating its more than 550 remaining charges.
Regulators paused their initial transfer requirement in July 2022, after reports that some of the 57 patients who had initially been moved from the hospital had died. In total, 12 former patients are confirmed to have died, nearly all of whom had been transferred last year to other skilled nursing facilities.
San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu is now requesting that the pause on transfers extend until at least May 30, 2023, and the status of the relocation plan is scheduled to be addressed at a Board of Supervisors hearing on Tuesday afternoon.
“There is a moral and ethical imperative to not continue the transfers,” said Joseph Urban, a health care consultant whose mother-in-law, Betty Campbell, was a resident at Laguna Honda. “We’re down to the wire again.”
Citing Campbell’s frail state, Urban and his spouse turned down the hospital’s offer last summer to relocate her. The 86-year-old died recently at the hospital.
Opened in 1866, Laguna Honda is one of the oldest and largest public skilled nursing facilities in the country, treating a wide range of medical conditions including dementia, stroke, mental illness and HIV.
Although the hospital is still licensed, it was decertified last year by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for a series of safety violations. That means it is no longer in good standing with government-provided health care options like Medicare and Medi-Cal, which fund medical costs for the vast majority of its patients.
After Laguna Honda lost certification, CMS required the hospital to create and implement a closure plan, including the transfer of all of its nearly 700 patients, many of them elderly and frail.