Public Health Activist Sues San Francisco Over New Admissions Policy at Laguna Honda Hospital
Public health activist Michael Lyon on Thursday filed two lawsuits in San Francisco Superior Court against the San Francisco Department of Public Health in an effort to block a new admissions policy at Laguna Honda Hospital, the city's long-term care facility, which some say has led to safety problems because of an increase in "harder-to-handle" patients with behavioral issues, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The policy, enacted in January, gives admissions priority at Laguna Honda to San Francisco General Hospital patients who no longer need regular hospital care. As a result of the policy change, more patients with substance abuse problems and mental illnesses are being transferred to Laguna Honda, which has more than 1,000 beds. Several doctors and other staff members at the hospital "have voiced safety concerns" over the shift in patient population, according to the Chronicle.
One of the lawsuits alleges that the new policy impedes "fair and equal access" to the hospital for the elderly and people with disabilities, groups to which Laguna Honda has traditionally catered, the Chronicle reports. The other lawsuit seeks to prevent Laguna Honda from paying to house patients transferred from S.F. General at other facilities if staff members refuse to admit them, a policy announced in June by Mitch Katz, the city's chief public health officer. In an interview in June, Katz defended the policy, saying that all patients regardless of age are "entitled to skilled nursing care, and Laguna Honda was set up as a skilled-care facility." Lynn Carman, the attorney who filed the lawsuits on behalf of Lyon, said, "We're trying to keep dangerous patients from flooding into Laguna Honda." City attorney spokesperson Alexis Truchan and health department spokesperson Eileen Shields did not comment on the lawsuits (Gordon, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.