San Francisco's Laguna Honda Hospital rehabilitating its rankings 

click to enlarge Improving: The U.S. Department of Justice has ended oversight of Laguna Honda. (Examiner file photo) - IMPROVING: THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE HAS ENDED OVERSIGHT OF LAGUNA HONDA. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)
  • Improving: The U.S. Department of Justice has ended oversight of Laguna Honda. (Examiner file photo)
  • Improving: The U.S. Department of Justice has ended oversight of Laguna Honda. (Examiner file photo)

After years of troubling quality-of-care reports that prompted lawsuits and federal intervention, Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center appears to have cleaned up its act.

In 2011, its first year in a new home, Laguna Honda upped its national ranking from two stars to three, and it is making good on a promise to improve patient access to housing, according to an annual report presented to the San Francisco Health Commission earlier this week.

“It is a complete turnaround from what it was before,” said Sonia Melara, vice president of the Health Commission and chair of the Laguna Honda joint conference committee.

The old hospital facility was so outdated and riddled with problems that in 1999 the federal Department of Justice began overseeing operations. But earlier this year, the department announced it was ending oversight because of Laguna Honda’s progress.

Despite construction delays, a decrease in the number of patient rooms and increased cost, the new facility ushered in patients in December and is expected to be completed in 2013.

The facility fared better in this year’s evaluation by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The report noted 10 deficiencies at Laguna Honda and awarded the facility an overall ranking of three out of five stars. Two years ago, the report noted 24 deficiencies.

The facility lagged in one category — health inspections, which received two stars.

The report uses inspections from the past three years to determine a health ranking. Reports from the past two years in the old facility are to blame for the lower score, said hospital spokesman Marc Slavin.

“Obviously we’d like to see five stars in each of those categories, and we won’t be satisfied until we do,” Slavin said.
Even critics see Laguna’s renewed commitment to improvement.

Elizabeth Zirker, a staff attorney for advocacy organization Disability Rights California, said Laguna Honda is making progress on a rental subsidy program that spawned from a 2008 settlement with a group of patients. The agreement requires that the program reach 500 people by 2013; so far, 160 people have benefitted, Zirker said.

“We’d like there to be more in place,” Zirker said, “but it seems like there’s a real commitment to make it happen.”

Nursing home deficiencies

  • Laguna Honda, 2009: 24
  • Laguna Honda, 2011:  10
  • National average: 8
  • State average: 11

Source: Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services

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