The beleaguered Laguna Honda Hospital got the best news it’s had in months Wednesday, as federal officials agreed to fully reinstate their $18 million a month in funding, and halted a forced patient transfer program that seriously risked patients’ health.
It has been a terrible 2022 for Laguna Honda Hospital, the only remaining publicly-owned skilled nursing facility in the U.S. In April, the hospital was decertified and had $18 million a month in federal Medicare/Medicaid funding frozen over two on-site overdoses, and follow-up investigations revealed the presence of cigarette lighters and drug paraphernalia. So the hospital was forced to submit plans to relocate all 700 patients, which they did start doing, but several medically fragile patients died in the process, which is surely a worse consequence than the two non-fatal overdoses and a few contraband items laying around.
Thankfully, the madness has been stopped. After negotiations between the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and city officials, the Chronicle reports that Laguna Honda has a one-year reprieve to clean up any regulatory improprieties. The hospital was facing a November 13 deadline to get all patients out, but that now is extended for a year, and they get their $18 million in monthly federal funding back.
BREAKING: Feds will continue funding for Laguna Honda through November 13, 2023. More details coming. https://t.co/4csXoMBMqC— Sydney Johnson (@sydneyfjohnson) October 12, 2022
"All parties are committed to ensuring that, regardless of income, people living in nursing homes are receiving safe, high-quality services and support," the combined federal, state and city officials said in a joint press release to the Examiner. "We are all focused on resident wellbeing while Laguna Honda continues to provide critically needed health care services for hundreds of residents."
Resident transfers & discharges will remain paused until February 2, 2023, and the agreement provides an option to extend that pause past February. Laguna Honda will continue to make quality improvements & work towards Medicare and Medicaid recertification.— SF City Attorney (@SFCityAttorney) October 12, 2022
Laguna Honda is by no means out of the woods here, but they just bought another year of operating as normal. Their federal funding, which accounts for two-thirds of their budget, is reinstated. But most crucially, the patient transfers will come to a halt, and those medically fragile patients can return to normalcy.
“The hospital will pause transferring and discharging current residents until Feb. 2, 2023,” as the Examiner explains. “The date could be extended further if Laguna Honda fulfills its obligations as part of the settlement.”
Great news! SF City Attorney has reached a settlement with the Federal CMS to extend payments to Laguna Honda until Nov 2023 and halt relocations until February. This gives Laguna Honda a fighting chance to get recertified. THANK YOU @DavidChiu and Louise Renne!— Myrna Melgar 🚲🌁🇸🇻 (@myrnamelgar) October 12, 2022
You’ll notice the district’s supervisor Myrna Melgar says “THANK YOU @DavidChiu” in her celebratory tweet. That’s a reference to an August lawsuit from the City Attorney that apparently did successfully force the feds to the bargaining table. It is frankly infuriating that nine dead patients did not force the feds to rethink their approach, but a lawsuit did. But hey, whatever works, it worked.
The plan still has to go before the SF Health Commission and Board of Supervisors for approval. But both of those bodies have been highly sympathetic to Laguna Honda and exasperated with the federal CMS, so the one-year extension for Laguna Honda hospital will likely be rubber-stamped as quickly as possible. And that's a huge sigh of relief for anyone with elderly family getting care at the facility.
Related: Now Four Patients Have Died After Being Moved Out of Laguna Honda [SFist]
Image: @myrnamelgar via Twitter