Investigation Uncovers Serious Patient Abuse at Laguna Honda Hospital

Staff are accused of verbal and physical abuse and unapproved sedation. In all, 23 patients were affected.

Laguna Honda is one of the largest rehabilitative hospitals in the nation. (File Photo)

The hospital where Mayor London Breed’s grandmother was treated for dementia before she died was rocked by a scandal Friday, as news emerged that nearly two dozen patients had been abused by staff over a span of three years.

Laguna Honda, which sits on a 62-acre site just south of Mount Sutro, is one of the largest skilled nursing facilities in the country. According to the San Francisco Department of Public Health, details of the incidents emerged back in February, during a follow-up of an HR complaint. A further investigation — led by the S.F. Department of Public Health, the California Department of Public Health and the City Attorney’s office — uncovered photos and video recordings texted between staff documenting abuses that dated all the way back to 2016. 

The violations included both physical and verbal abuse, neglect, medication errors, the administration of non-prescribed sedatives, and sexualized conversations. The victims were highly vulnerable; ranging in age from 30 to 100, they all resided in two wards specifically designated for people suffering from dementia. 

“What has recently come to light is so profoundly hurtful, offensive, and heartbreaking for so many of us who care deeply about this hospital,” Breed said Friday. “I appreciate that the Department of Public Health, under the leadership of Dr. Grant Colfax, took swift action to investigate these allegations and hold staff responsible for their horrific actions, including the leadership charged with overseeing the hospital.”

That “swift action” includes the firing of all six employees and the removal of both the hospital’s CEO and Director of Quality. Colfax would not confirm whether or not both still worked for the city, or if criminal charges have been filed against any of the suspects.

Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee said he was “speechless” upon learning of the abuse, which occurred in his district. 

“I’m super outraged with what has occurred,” he told reporters Friday. “I don’t have the words to say how upset I am … We really need to find out how to prevent something like this from ever, ever happening again.” 

Yee is calling for a Board of Supervisors hearing over the incidents, and the Department of Public Health will release a plan on how to move forward within the next 60 days. In the meantime, an interim CEO has been appointed, access to prescription medication has been strictly reinforced and SFPD has been notified, as have all the families of the victims. 

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