A $2.2 million settlement with patients who suffered abuse at a San Francisco skilled nursing facility before it was threatened with closure moved a step closer to resolution last week.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors’ Government Audit and Oversight Committee approved the settlement for 11 older residents at Laguna Honda Hospital & Rehabilitation Center, which is the nation’s largest publicly run nursing home, according to local media.
A 2019 California Department of Public Health investigation had confirmed multiple claims of patient abuse by six former nurses there. A 2021 lawsuit accused those nurses of taking nude photos of residents and other offenses between 2016 and 2019.
“This first settlement is really a step in the direction to try to get justice for those people who have been experiencing neglect and, in my own opinion, still experiencing neglect up at Laguna Honda,” Kathryn Stebner, an attorney for the plaintiffs said, per reporting from KQED. Stebner said some patients were given medications without consent and photos showed one woman with “a gag over her mouth and part of her breasts … showing.”
Just months before the lawsuit was filed, there were two nonfatal patient overdoses at the facility that involved the smuggling of methamphetamines and fentanyl. Federal regulators swooped in, and in April 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services decertified the facility, threatened to halt payments, and ordered the transfer of patients over numerous deficiencies in patient care, facility operations and administration.
After 12 of the initial 59 patients moved out of the facility died soon after arriving at their new facilities, federal officials agreed to pause the transfer order. In October, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News reported that CMS agreed to let the 769-bed SNF to continue participating in both Medicare and Medicaid.
In February, US Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra visited the scandal-plagued facility and coyly told residents he met with to “stay tuned” for more developments on keeping Laguna Honda open.
The San Francisco Standard reported last month that the city and federal agencies reached a last-minute deal to extend the pause on patient transfers until Sept. 19.
CMS also agreed to continue allowing the facility to receive federal funds through March 19, 2024, the paper reported, noting that “[s]uspense over repeated negotiation sessions has been a major pain point for patients, advocates, and families.” CMS could also recertify the facility before the September deadline if it continues to meet federal standards.