Study chronicles tales of assault, other abuses at Laguna Honda

A new state “deficiencies” study of Laguna Honda Hospital details stories of assaults on staff and other patients, as well as incidents involving sexual abuse, weapons, drugs and verbal threats of violence.

Supporters of a June ballot initiative that would keep patients with behavior problems out of the hospital publicized the 274-page report Wednesday as proof that Laguna Honda's elderly and disabled patients are currently at risk.

Among other provisions, Proposition D would prohibit the hospital from treating patients who are a danger to themselves or others, and persons whose diagnosis is primarily psychiatric.

Prop. D campaigners say the hospital used to be safe until a change in admissions policy several years ago that encouraged the transfer of patients from San Francisco General Hospital.

Department of Public Health Director Dr. Mitch Katz said it is more expensive to provide long-term care at San Francisco General, adding that in response to community concerns, fewer patients are now being transferred from S.F. General to Laguna Honda.

“But we've never admitted anyone to Laguna Honda that we thought would be a danger to anyone,” Katz said.

The report reveals, however, that some patients are abusive and even violent. The report does not provide the ages of most of the abused or abusive residents, however, and several of the cases cited involve patients who had been admitted years before the change in admissions policy.

In one case, a resident, described as a “frail man,” was reported to have been “repeatedly assaulted by other residents on his unit.” A 41-year-old patient was described as having a long history of methamphetamine use, attempted suicide and threats of violence while in the hospital.

Another patient is said to “taunt others, particularly the more frail and vulnerable.”

“There will always be issues to improve,” said Katz, who said the hospital's poor rating did not reflect a decline in standards, but a more “rigorous” review process. “The focus should be how can we make it better.”

In recent weeks, critics of Prop. D have pointed out that the wording of the initiative — which makes the hospital part of a special use district for only certain patients — would also allow private builders to apply for conditional-use permits to build nursing homes on publicly zoned lands, according to an analysis by the City Attorney's Office and the Planning Department.

beslinger@examiner.com

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