After 17 months of turmoil, decertification, and attempts to close Laguna Honda Hospital, the hospital is now largely out of the woods after a full reinstatement by the state’s Medi-Cal program.

The only remaining publicly-owned skilled nursing facility in the U.S., San Francisco’s Laguna Honda hospital, has had a dreadful last 17 months.

The trouble started in March 2022, when two patients overdosed on illegal drugs they likely scored while on unsupervised leave. That led to Medicare and Medicaid yanking the hospital’s funding to the tune of about $200 million. With an unsure future, Laguna Honda had to start moving patients out, even though the funding would have been reinstated if they presented an adequate improvement plan. And amid this bureaucratic nightmare of moving frail and elderly patients out, 12 of those patients died, and City Attorney David Chiu sued the feds for the forced transfers on which those patient’s deaths were blamed.

Laguna Honda died apply for state-level reinstatement last week. And today the Chronicle reports the state agency Medi-Cal gave a quick thumbs up and reinstated Laguna Honda Hospital.

“Great news: Our Laguna Honda community will continue receiving the care and support they need,” Mayor London Breed tweeted as the news came out. Laguna Honda is particularly relevant to Breed, as Breed’s mother was a residential patient there for many years before she passed in 2016.

“We were confident we’d get there, but we had no idea it was going to come today,” Laguna Honda CEO Dr. Roland Pickens told the Chronicle. “I’m pleasantly surprised. Joyous!”

When we first met Dr. Roland Pickens, he was in the awful position of defending the hospital from permanent decertification. His June 14, 2022 address to the SF Board of Supervisors started with the words, “I am the interim CEO at Laguna Honda hospital, a position I have held for the last 12 days,” clarifying the degree to which he was holding the shit end of the stick.

But it’s a glorious turnaround and mop-up job he’s presided over. This is not a full reinstatement of Laguna Honda's funding, but it’s pretty damned close. Medi-Cal is relied upon by 95% of the hospital’s patients to cover their costs, though the remaining federal Medicare funding, which is also vital to the facility's budget, is still up in the air.  

The 157-year-old facility is home to about 500 patients, overwhelmingly low-income seniors. With the reinstatement, the hospital will also be allowed to begin admitting new patients again.

Related: Laguna Honda Presents Plan to Shut Down and Relocate Nearly 700 Patients, Even Though They May Not Have To [SFist]

Image: SF.Gov