LAGUNA HONDA: Chronicle Columnist Calls For Action
In today's San Francisco Chronicle, columnist Ken Garcia comments on the "scathing report" that federal officials issued last week regarding conditions at Laguna Honda nursing home. Garcia writes that while the federal government, "using all its formidable investigative powers," has finally determined that the hospital is "a structural and medical relic, built for standards of treatment that existed more than a half-century ago," San Francisco elected officials have only done "what they do best: Nothing."
Victims Of Government Circles
Garcia writes that the "biggest losers" in the "classic matchup" between local municipality and federal bureaucracy are the "1,200 sick and elderly patient who fill [Laguna Honda] the largest public hospital for the chronically ill in the United States." Garcia says that "medical care at the facility has been exemplary, which is no small feat when you consider the age of the patients, the fact that more than 700 of them are confined to wheelchairs, or that more than 70% of the new residents suffer from a form of dementia." But federal investigators concluded that large open wards "that house up to 30 or more beds," as Laguna Honda's do, are "not best for patients."
Searching For Solutions
According to Garcia, "modern medical care intimates that Laguna Honda should be rebuilt," which would cost San Francisco residents $600 million. But "[m]odern political thinking suggests this is not likely to happen." Garcia notes that "[c]ity officials have been dragging their feet on the issue since Dianne Feinstein was mayor," and have "reached the point where the cost of rebuilding the hospital is so exorbitant, they decided to go back to basics," like deciding whether the city should even be in the business of running "the largest hospital for the chronically ill in the nation." City health commissioners "debated the issue for a while and then decided to put the matter off until November 1999."
Just Do It
Garcia concludes: "It very well may be time for the city to rethink whether it belongs in the business of running large public hospitals or whether Laguna Honda should be divided and rebuilt. And it seems like a good time for the federal government to stop hyperventilating about the facility's obsolete design unless it uncovers more serious cases of medical neglect. But the time has certainly come to end the political foot-dragging that has become contagious at city hall, and which poses a threat to some of the most fragile citizens in San Francisco" (5/12).