Ex-hospital CEO still employed by SF after patient abuse scandal

The head of Laguna Honda Hospital resigned from her position in June over the recent patient abuse scandal but remains employed by the Department of Public Health, the San Francisco Examiner has learned.

Mivic Hirose stepped down as CEO of Laguna Honda Hospital shortly before city officials announced that 23 patients had been abused by six staff members at the 780-bed city-run skilled nursing facility for three years.

But city officials declined to say at the time if Hirose remained employed with The City after stepping down as CEO, a position she has held since her appointment in 2009.

The Examiner has since learned that Hirose remains employed with the Department of Public Health, as a clinical nurse specialist in the Information Technology division.

Mivic Hirose (Courtesy Photo)

Health department spokesperson Rachael Kagan confirmed Wednesday that since her resignation, Hirose has worked at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. A ZSFGH spokesperson told the San Francisco Examiner that Hirose has assisted in the summer rollout of a new electronic health records system.

In Hirose’s new position, she earns an annual salary of $230,464. In her previous role as CEO she earned an annual salary of $309,738. These salary figures do not include benefits.

Kagan confirmed that Hirose held the clinical nurse specialist position prior to her appointment as CEO in 2009, and exercised her “civil service rights” to return to that permanent position at ZSFGH. Hirose could not be reached for comment by press time.

Some have questioned whether Hirose should still have a job with The City. The abuse of patients, which occurred between 2016 and January 2019, included drugging, nude photographs, video recording, sexually explicit conversations and, in one case, kicking a patient.

Kagan declined to comment further on Hirose’s employment with the health department, describing the issue as a personnel matter.

Hirose told state investigators that she was unaware of the abuse and acknowledged that the hospital had lacked a “safety culture,” according to a report by the California Department of Public Health.

The entrance to Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2019. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

“I wish all of these [incidents] were reported in 2016 when some of the residents pictures were taken … we are failing at reporting … lf we had a safety culture, reporting would have happened three years ago,” Hirose said during an interview with state investigators.

Kagan said that six staff members who were directly involved in the abuse are no longer working for The City. In addition to Hirose, the hospital’s director of quality management at the time of the abuse remains employed by the department as a nursing director but not at Laguna Honda hospital. Kagan would not name the director of quality.

The director of quality management told state investigators, “It has been mind blowing these

incidents happened … we did not see any signs,” according to the CDHP report, which also didn’t name the director.

The Police Department is still investigating the allegations. No one has yet been charged in connection with the abuse.

While the patient abuse scandal cost Hirose her job at Laguna Honda Hospital, there were a number of other incidents at the hospital over the years that called into question the hospital’s leadership.

Earlier this year, before the patient abuse scandal became public, the California Department of Public Health issued two fines against Laguna Honda Hospital, according to public records.

In May, the CDHP issued the hospital a $20,000 citation for failure to properly supervise and protect from hazards a patient suffering from dementia who was left unattended in March 2018 in a bathroom and fell sustaining a bone fracture.

In March, the CDHP issued the hospital a $20,000 citation when a patient caused a fire by smoking in bed. The patient “suffered burns to face, nose left arm from the shoulder down to the elbow and significant smoke inhalation” and had to undergo skin graft surgeries.

In 2016, the hospital was fined $100,000 by CDHP for an incident that occurred in 2014 that left a patient dead. A staffer failed to properly supervise the patient and lock the patient’s wheel chair wheels as required when left curbside near a movie theater during a patient trip off campus. The patient was left on an incline and the wheelchair rolled away, causing the patient to fall and sustain a fatal head injury.

The hospital was also involved in one of San Francisco’s most famous whistleblower cases.

In 2013, The City settled a lawsuit brought by Derek Kerr, who claimed he was fired by Hirose at the hospital after 21 years of service in retaliation for filing complaints alleging misuse of a patient gift fund.

The City settled the lawsuit with Kerr for $750,000. The settlement included having Hirose undergo an hour’s worth of training on whistle-blowing and First Amendment rights.

In an interview with the Examiner on Wednesday, Kerr said the hospital suffered from a culture of silence among the workforce and tensions between staff and administrators.

“Lapses in administrative procedures have to be confronted,” Kerr said. “Administrators are not good at that…when wrongdoing occurred [Hirose] was not responsive to addressing wrongdoing.”

Kerr said that he does not believe Hirose is “entirely responsible” for the abuse patients suffered under her watch.

“The culture of silence is the opposite of a culture of safety — to keep an institution safe you need open channels of communication. When something is wrong, somebody has to be able to say, ‘Hey there is something wrong here,” said Kerr. “At Laguna Honda, there are a number of cultural factors that [work against] speaking out, one of which has been the adversarial attitude towards whistleblowers and critics. That intimidates everybody else.”

Patrick Monette-Shaw worked at Laguna Honda for a decade, and alleges that he was laid off in 2009 after writing articles about “multiple problems at Laguna Honda and the dumping of LHH and SFGH patients out of county.”

Monette-Shaw said that he was surprised to learn that Hirose was “not actually terminated … over the patient abuse scandal but that they [that DPH] had simply moved her into a cushy clinical nurse specialist job.”

“I think it’s scandalous,” he said. “[Hirose] in my opinion should never have been appointed as chief executive officer. She never had experience running an entire hospital. I don’t think she was qualified to ever be appointed CEO.”

lwaxmann@sfexaminer.com

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

 

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