SF health officials retract statement 130 patients impacted by patient abuse scandal

Investigation uncovers 130 ‘incidents,’ but it’s unclear how many additional patients may be involved

UPDATE Oct. 25, 2019: The Department of Public Health has now confirmed 130 patients were affected by the Laguna Honda Hospital abuse scandal. An updated story is here.

A health official testified Wednesday before a Board of Supervisors committee hearing that the number of patients impacted by the abuse scandal at Laguna Honda Hospital had grown from 23 to 130, but a hospital spokesperson told the San Francisco Examiner Thursday that was a misstatement.

Troy Williams, the chief quality officer for Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, told the Board of Supervisors Government Audit and Oversight Committee Wednesday that forensic analysis of cell-phones used by former staff at Laguna Honda Hospital who are alleged to have abused patients had unearthed more evidence.

He said that evidence, which includes photographs, was turned over on a rolling basis to the California Department of Public Health, which is investigating the patient abuse. “As a result of the new reports, there are approximately 130 residents involved,” Williams told the committee.

But Brent Andrew, a spokesperson for Laguna Honda Hospital, said in an email Thursday to the San Francisco Examiner that Williams “misspoke” and that Williams should have said there were 130 incidents, not residents.

In June, The City announced the abuse impacted 23 patients at Laguna Honda, a 780-bed skilled-nursing facility overseen by the Department of Public Health.

“Investigations since the June 28 public announcement have uncovered 130 incidents at Laguna Honda Hospital,” Andrew said in a statement to the Examiner. “Testimony at yesterday’s Board of Supervisors committee hearing erroneously cited 130 patients involved, not the number of incidents of privacy or other violations of patient rights.”

Andrew said that it’s not clear how many more patients could be impacted.

“In June, we reported that 23 patients were involved in these incidents,” Andrew said in an email. “As a result of investigations, additional evidence has been discovered, which could involve several additional patients. Some patients cannot be conclusively identified by the photographic evidence.”

Of the 23 patients announced in June, 19 were the subject of privacy breaches, seven sustained some form of sexual, physical or psychological abuse, and five were abused from drugging, known as “chemical restraints.” The incidents don’t add up to 23, since some patients were subjected to more than one form of abuse. The sexual abuse isn’t physical assault but nude photos.

The 130 incidents are largely related to apparent violations of patient privacy rights, such as appearing in the background of a photo, according to Andrew.

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