In a court room, four Supervisors sitting on the left listen to Roland Pickens presenting on the right.
The Board of Supervisors listen to updates from interim CEO of Laguna Honda Hospital, Roland Pickens

The fight to keep Laguna Honda afloat continues.

In a Thursday afternoon hearing, members of the Board of Supervisors listened to an update from the interim CEO of the troubled hospital, Roland Pickens, about the four-month closure and transfer plan put together by the hospital after the federal government earlier this year moved to curtail its Medicaid funding. 

The plan, originally meant to be completed in 18 months, was rejected by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — which wanted a faster closure or transfer process, according to Pickens.

In April, that federal department moved to revoke funding for the 780-bed hospital, citing myriad violations. To continue receiving some $20 million a month in the interim, Laguna Honda was mandated to devise a closure plan that involves transferring its patients — many of whom are elderly and frail. 

If Laguna Honda stays on track with the four-month plan, it may get an additional two months of funding, pushing the potential closure date to November.

But patient advocates and family members have been pressing to stop transferring patients while the hospital works on its recertification

So far, 40 patients have been transferred to other skilled nursing facilities: one in San Francisco, four in Alameda and 35 in San Mateo County. Four residents died shortly thereafter, with transfer trauma as a suspected cause. Still, more than 600 residents are scheduled to be transferred or discharged.

“Can we expect 50 more deaths at low-quality nursing homes receiving Laguna Honda patients?” former Laguna Honda geriatrician Dr. Teresa Palmer asked the city’s Health Commission earlier this week.

Laguna Honda Hospital seen in 1926. Photo courtesy of OpenSFHistory.org

In addition to the trauma of moving frail patients, concerns been raised that the facilities where patients are being referred to are worse than Laguna Honda. But due to 120 beds being cut from Laguna Honda — recertification or no — at least 60 more patients will have to be moved to other open facilities. These include Burlingame Skilled Nursing, managed by Brius Healthcare. The owner, Shlomo Rechnitz, faced a lawsuit last year alleging that one of his 83 nursing homes in California was responsible for covid-related deaths of some 24 elderly people.

“Brius is Motel 6 and Laguna Honda is the Four Seasons,” said Joseph Urban, whose mother-in-law is a patient at Laguna Honda. He visited the South Bay facility shortly after being told his mother-in-law would be staying there and said it is not up to par, with scratched-up furniture and holes in the wall. He also said that he was wary when he saw that so many rooms were available at Burlingame.

As a result, Urban, along with other residents, have been notified of rights to appeal the transfer or discharge and laws that state a patient’s right to stay at the facility. This was covered in a town hall led by Tony Chicotel, staff attorney at the California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform

Urban and others were notified of the discharge two months ago in an informal letter from Laguna Honda. 

“These other facilities are horrendous; you wouldn’t want to send your worst enemy there,” noted Donna D’Eufemia, whose 76-year-old brother was slated to transfer to Burlingame and to another facility in San Mateo. “It’s just inhumane.”

Patients being transferred or slated to transfer to a facility with bad reviews — not to mention being 30 miles away — also caused strife with the Board of Supervisors in Thursday’s meeting.

“To be turning folks out of [Laguna Honda] to far less careful institutions is abominable and awful,” stated Supervisor Rafael Mandelman. “What is happening here is absolutely wrong.”

Meanwhile, the staff of Laguna Honda is currently working with consultants to get its recertification, which Pickens expects will happen.

Until then, however, residents and advocates are digging in their heels to keep patients at Laguna Honda.

“We’re playing hardball.” Urban said.

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Intern Reporter. William moved to the Bay Area from Nashville to pursue a Masters in Journalism from UC Berkeley. He's covered police reform in Oakland and also investigates correctional officer misconduct at the Investigative Reporting Program. You'll mostly see him behind a camera. Follow him on Twitter @WilliamJenk_

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13 Comments

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  1. just want to come back here today and thank you for this article which the rest of the corporate-run bay area newsrooms ignored. that’s why local news is so important because most news today is like zukbook.
    you also get a kudos for prodding our grandstanding supes to address the issue of 4 deaths ‘tho maybe it’s too late to stop the transfers. perhaps this will save more lives. and it started at mission local. thank you Will.

  2. The frail elderly who truly need Laguna Honda care are being thrown away through no fault of their own. Meanwhile, the drug dealers and addicts remain untouchable in their country club, four seasons accommodations at Laguna Honda. Wtf!

    Someone should check on those “consultants.” Most of them don’t know jack and doing very little. Yet they are laughing all the way to the bank.

  3. Reminds me of the ACCJC going after City College 2012. Why are federal organizations intent on going after important San Francisco public institutions while ignoring much worse problems at privately run facilities? Seriously, Shlomo Rechnitz & Phoenix University can keep milking the fed while CCSF and Laguna Honda are supposed to go away.

  4. LHH management weren’t feeling doing the work, so the supervisors said it was okay to transfer frail seniors far afield because the needs and comfort of LHH management are paramount, and the supes wanted to respect that.

  5. Please note: Question: Shall this Resolution be ADOPTED?
    From Teresa Palmer MD: If San Franciscans want to keep the nursing facility they paid to rebuild, and may someday need for themselves, we need a veto-proof majority of the supes on this below: as it is item 63 it will be late in the day.
    Full Board Meeting 7/26 at 2 PM:
    Link to full Agenda: https://sfbos.org/sites/default/files/bag072622_agenda.pdf
    Agenda Item 63: File #: 220868 [Urging United States Secretary Xavier Becerra and the Department of Health and Human Services to Suspend Requirement to Relocate and Transfer Patients from Laguna Honda Hospital]
    Sponsors: Melgar; Peskin, Chan, Stefani, Mar, Preston and Mandelman
    Resolution urging United States Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra to suspend a requirement by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid
    Services on relocating and transferring vulnerable patients at Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center; and to extend coverage of Medicare and Medicaid payments until the end of year.

    1. Board of Supervisors resolutions are not subject to approval or veto by the Mayor and are purely advisory in nature.

  6. “Brius is Motel 6 and Laguna Honda is the Four Seasons,” said Joseph Urban.

    And how much does Mister Urban pay towards the five star accommodation?

    1. Man, if you’re really debating to throw the elderly and mentally ill onto the street is the better alternative and misconstruing the metaphor, you have problems.

      If you read carefully, the phrase actually means that Laguna Honda is like a 5 star hotel compared to the “throw your grandma here to get neglected and die” Motel 6.

      It doesn’t mean Laguna Honda is great, it just means it’s better than the alternative.

      Both suck.

      1. I was not advocating for anyone to be thrown out onto the street, and that is not exactly what is happening here anyway. However these things invariably come down to money and the article specifically talks about losing $20 million per month in federal funding unless the over-crowding ceases.

        Perhaps a better analogy is that LHH is the country club of residential care homes. If we were designing a new facility from scratch we would never design such a lavish and sprawling complex that uses so much real estate. The inability to fund and maintain the property is surely a function of its extravagance.

        1. This is not a lavish facility: it was built on property the city already owns. The level of service and the design of the facility gets closer to honoring what experts tell us shoukd be the legal minimum for nursing home care; unlike for profit chain nursing homes which fall far below. Your inderlying assumptions seem ageist and abelist: people who need nursing homes have the right to a decent and dignified life. This is not a luxury.

          1. Just because the city already owned the land does not necessarily make it cheaper when you take into account the opportunity cost of not selling that land and/or redeveloping it for a use that would provide revenues.

            We can debate how luxurious the facility is but, ether way, it would appear that the funding model for it is broken.

        2. Man, ‘Folicle’,

          You sound like Scrooge.

          Great piece William Jenkins and hope you only have to endure having your last name besmirched for til November.

          I still get laughed at for having same nickname as ‘h.’ Rap Brown.

          Biden is ultimate power to stop this land grab.

          Pelosi has the hammer and ‘wherwithal’ to stop this too.

          Check my columns on subject at sfbulldogblog.Wordpress.com

          Go Niners !!

          h.