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Laguna Honda crisis continues: Of 8 patients relocated last week, only 1 remained in SF

A Laguna Honda Hospital employee walks into the administration building from the hospital and treatment center’s courtyard in San Francisco, Calif. on Monday, May 16, 2022. | Camille Cohen

Laguna Honda Hospital transferred another eight patients last week as the federal government continues its push to relocate nearly 700 residents out of San Francisco’s largest skilled nursing facility by early September. 

Elizabeth Halifax, a UCSF researcher focused on long-term care, said that as soon as Laguna patients were notified of their possible relocation, their transfer trauma began.

Transfer trauma—especially frequent in patients with dementia—is the severe stress that comes with the involuntary relocation of vulnerable and disabled people to unfamiliar locations. 

“The death rate, when people are moved like that, is much higher,” Halifax said. 

Only one of the eight Laguna residents transferred gets to stay in San Francisco. Three were discharged to boarding or residential facilities, which do not offer the level of care provided at a facility like Laguna.

Of the remaining five patients, none were able to transfer to skilled nursing facilities in San Francisco, instead moving to Alameda or San Mateo counties, further separating them from family and friends. 

As of this Monday, a total of 56 patients were relocated after Laguna Honda completed its ninth week of patient relocation, which updates every Monday at 5 p.m.

The hospital is federally required to continue moving the rest of the patients, despite the health risks, after the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services threatened to stop funding the hospital in April.

In September, Laguna may reapply for that essential federal funding. 

Still, in May, an official with Mayor London Breed’s administration said the city has tools to keep the facility open, and federal notices do not necessarily mean the hospital’s eviction will occur. 

San Francisco’s Health Commission will meet Tuesday to discuss the Laguna Honda transfer plan as local advocates call on City Hall to continue funding the hospital if the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services do not.