Twenty-three patients at Laguna Honda Hospital were abused by staff members over the past three years, city officials alleged Friday after a monthslong investigation by the Department of Public Health.
The alleged abuse, which dates back to 2016, involved six staff members who are no longer employed by the department, health officials said.
The former staff members engaged in verbal and physical abuse, including sexualized conversations, and sedated patients with controlled substances, health officials alleged. The abuse was photographed and recorded on video and shared among the staff members by text messages. The patients ranged in ages from 30 to 100 and suffered from dementia.
“We are better than this. We are committed to restoring the trust [with] the families and the patients of Laguna Honda,” Mayor London Breed said during a 12-minute press conference held at City Hall Friday. “We are committed to making sure that situations like this that have occurred don’t happen again.”
Laguna Honda CEO Mivic Hirose, who was appointed to the post in 2009, resigned this week and the hospital’s Director of Quality was also removed. City officials said they would not name the director nor the six staffers because it was a personnel matter.
The California Department of Public Health and the San Francisco Police Department’s Special Victims Unit are investigating. No one has been arrested or charged in the matter.
The alleged abuse was uncovered back in February when the department was investigating an unrelated employee’s human resources complaint and came across possible evidence of patient abuse. The City Attorney’s Office assisted in the investigation.
“We immediately started an internal investigation and found evidence to substantiate our initial suspicion,” said Dr. Grant Colfax, who was appointed in February to the head of the Department of Public Health.
“As a caregiver I am outraged and heartbroken that our patients were treated this way,” Colfax said. “I apologize to them and to their families.”
Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, whose district includes the hospital, said he planned to call for a hearing on the abuse.
“I am kind of speechless,” Yee said. “I am super outraged with what has occurred.”
Breed called the allegations “profoundly hurtful, offensive, and heartbreaking” and said The City took “swift action to investigate these allegations and hold staff responsible for their horrific actions.”
Colfax said he was concerned there was a “culture of silence” that permitted the abuse to continue unreported. The 780-bed skilled nursing facility is owned and operated by the department and has an operating budget of about $300 million.
He said the department took a number of steps to ensure patient safety, including wellness checks for all impacted patients and better oversight of drug dispensing.
The department has named its chief integrity officer Margaret Rykowski as acting CEO of Laguna Honda Hospital.
“There is no evidence that these abuses continued past January of 2019,” Colfax said. “Today, we are confident that Laguna Honda continues to be a good place for patients.”