Patients in a ward of the Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco, that primarily houses patients with dementia, were the victims of nursing home abuse, according to numerous reports and government officials.
The public facility is operated and owned by San Francisco and serves about 800 patients. The facility is one of the largest skilled nursing facilities in the country. It serves as a rehabilitation center, nursing home, and live-in hospital. Laguna Honda was founded in 1866. Sadly, this incident highlights the serious failure of many facilities to adequately supervise staff members and patients to prevent this type of abuse.
Types of Abuse Patients Suffered at Laguna Honda Hospital
The patients at Laguna Honda Hospital suffered horrific and sickening forms of abuse at the hands of the staff members entrusted with their care. After months of investigation, officials concluded that at least six former employers abused 23 patients to privacy, physical, and verbal abuse. The abuse occurred over several years. The abused patients ranged in age from 30 years to approximately 100 years of age.
Examples of the abuse discovered at the hospital include:
- Violating the patients’ privacy by creating and exchanging video recordings and photographs of the patients without the consent of the patients. The photographs and videos documented the abuse.
- Verbal abuse
- Medication errors
- Sedation of patients with non-prescription medications
- Failure to report violations
- Engaging in sexualized conversations with patients
The abuse was discovered during an investigation into a human resources complaint in February 2019. The San Francisco Department of Public Health conducted a quality review and requested the City Attorney’s office to conduct a human resources investigation also.
Through the investigation into the human resources complaint, officials discovered the patient abuse. The California Department of Public Health was notified and conducted an independent investigation into the matter.
What Was the Result of the Investigations?
According to the San Francisco Health Network, immediate steps were taken after the abuse was discovered to protect patient safety and wellness. Steps taken included:
- The CEO of the hospital resigned.
- The Direction of Quality was removed from that position.
- The six employees suspected of abuse were fired.
- Notice of the abuse was given to all patients and their conservators or decision makers.
- Wellness checks were conducted for all affected patients.
- Law enforcement agencies and relevant regulatory agencies were informed of the matter.
- Retraining of staff members in the prevention of patient abuse and the reporting procedures for patient abuse.
- Improved the practices for drug dispensing and testing.
Additionally, a turnaround plan would be implemented for Laguna Honda with input from experts in long term care.
The City of San Francisco faced a $780,000 fine related to the patient abuse that occurred at Laguna Honda Hospital. It paid $733,000 after receiving a 356 percent discount for not contesting the fine. A criminal investigation by the San Francisco Police Department has not resulted in any arrests as of publication of this post.
The Number of Abused Patients Grows Substantially
The Department of Health released information in October 2019 that revealed the actual number of patients abused at Laguna Honda Hospital was actually 130. This number is much higher than the original 23 patients announced in June. The updated patient count was determined after a forensic analysis of former employee cell phones provided additional evidence of abuse.
According to The San Francisco Examiner, a spokesperson for Laguna Honda Hospital confirmed in an email that approximately 30 patients were subject to chemical restraint, verbal abuse, physical abuse, and sexually related abuse. Approximately 25 patients had their images used in photos or videos without their consent, and about 75 patients had their names used in recordings without their consent.
The Examiner had previously reported numerous details from the investigation that vividly portray the physical, verbal, and sexual abuse of nursing home patients. The extent of the abuse was horrific and sickening.
The Hospital Continues to Have Problems
Even though officials claim that the problems at Laguna Honda Hospital have been resolved, the hospital continued to struggle after the investigation concluded. The hospital failed its first re-inspection. It passed a second re-inspection conducted a month later. The first inspection noted additional patient neglect and failure to follow the correction action plan.
Pursuing Claims for Nursing Home Abuse and Hospital Abuse
Nursing home and hospital patients are often at the mercy of those who are entrusted with their care. Negligence and intentional wrongdoing results in serious injuries and harm to patients. The above incidents at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco are just some of the examples of the physical abuse, mental abuse, and sexual abuse inflicted upon patients in nursing homes, assisted care facilities, hospitals, and other residential care facilities.
Many of these acts are criminal. If you suspect a patient is being abused, report the abuse to local law enforcement agencies immediately. However, a criminal investigation is only one aspect of an abuse case. The patient often has a civil cause of action against the abusers and the facility for damages caused by the abuse.
A civil action is separate and apart from any criminal case or oversight investigations by local, state, or federal agencies. In a civil action, a patient can recover monetary compensation for injuries, physical pain, mental anguish, financial losses, medical expenses, emotional distress, and other damages. However, the patient must prove the elements of negligence to recover compensation for his or her damages.
Elements of Negligence in a Nursing Home Abuse or Neglect Claim
When suing a facility for abuse or neglect, you are required to prove that the facility was negligent in allowing the abuse to occur. The four legal elements of a negligence claim are:
- Breach of Duty
If a patient resides in a facility, the facility owes a duty of care to the patient to provide reasonable services that meet or exceed acceptable standards. Experts in the field can be retained to testify what the acceptable standard of care would have been given the circumstances and facts of the case. In most instances, an acceptable standard of care would be what another facility would have done given the same or similar circumstances.
A breach of that duty occurs when the facility fails to meet the standard of care. For instance, a facility fails to conduct background checks on an employee, which would have revealed a history of sexual abuse charges. Another example would be failing to develop, implement, and supervise a policy that prevents unauthorized dispensing of drugs to patients. Failure to adequately train and supervise employees can also be considered a breach of duty.
When a facility breaches its duty of care, patients can sustain injuries and suffer harm. However, you must prove that the breach of duty was a direct and proximate cause of the patient’s injuries and harm. You must also prove that because of the breach and resulting injuries or harm, the patient sustained damages.
Because claims involving abuse or sexual assault can be difficult to prove, it is wise to consult a skilled California abuse attorney as soon as possible. An attorney with experience handling sexual abuse cases or nursing home abuse cases can investigate the matter to identify the liable parties and gather evidence proving negligence, fault, and liability.
What Should You Do if You Suspect Your Loved One Was Abused or Neglected?
Neglect and abuse can be difficult to detect. However, there are some signs you can look for when visiting your family member in a nursing home or health care facility.
- Unexplained infections, including sexually transmitted infections and diseases
- Bruises, cuts, and lacerations
- Broken bones and fractures
- Unexplained weight loss
- Dehydration or malnutrition
- Signs of restraint ( bruises, redness, or abrasions on ankles and wrists)
- Withdrawal, depression, and mood changes
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Bed sores
- Fear of being left alone with staff members or refusing to speak in front of staff members
Any unexplained conditions should raise questions. If staff members refuse to answer or cannot answer your questions satisfactorily, that should also cause concern. Your loved one always has the right to be examined by an independent physician if there are any concerns regarding his or her treatment in a nursing home or other healthcare facility.
If you suspect your loved one is in immediate danger, contact the police to report the abuse. You can also contact the local social services offices. You can report incidents of nursing home abuse, elder abuse, and neglect to the Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse by calling 800-722-0432.
After securing the safety of the abused person, contact our California nursing home abuse attorney for a free consultation to discuss your family’s legal rights regarding a civil action against the facility.
Because your time to file a civil claim is limited by California’s statute of limitations, it is important to act quickly to seek legal advice.
The government investigates criminal acts, but it is up to you to pursue civil action against the facility and the parties responsible for the abuse. A civil action is not dependent on a criminal action. Even if the state does not prosecute the facility or any individuals for abuse, you can pursue a civil action for damages.
New Website Can Help Families Identify Nursing Homes Where Abuse Occurs
In October 2019, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the Trump Administration announced a new tool that can help families and patients identify nursing homes that have been cited for incidents of exploitation, neglect, or abuse.
Families can use the Nursing Home Compare tool to obtain a variety of information about Medicaid and Medicare-certified nursing homes across the country. A new alert is now clearly displayed on the website when a facility has an inspection report that indicates abuse that resulted in harm to a patient in the past year and/or abuse that could have resulted in harm to a patient in each of the last two years.
The purpose of the new alert is to make it easier to identify nursing homes with potential abuse or neglect problems. Previously, patients or family members could obtain the information from the facility’s inspection reports. The alert helps family members and patients make informed decisions about a nursing home.
Contact a California Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Today for Help
The terrible wrongs committed at the Laguna Honda Hospital should never be repeated. Sadly, thousands of nursing home patients and patients in other healthcare facilities will be subjected to numerous forms of abuse each day in the United States.
Many of these incidents go unreported because the individuals are unable to fight back or speak for themselves. It is up to family members and committed attorneys to fight for the rights of abused individuals in long-term care and healthcare facilities. These facilities and the individuals who commit the abuse should not go unpunished for their wrongdoing.
Abuse can occur in any setting. The perpetrator can be a physician, nurse, aide, resident, visitor, or staff member. The abuse can take the form of physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect. The consequences of the abuse can be devastating for the patient. In some cases, the outcome is death. Wrongful death cases also arise because of nursing home abuse.
The Lawyers of The Thompson Law Office Fight for Victims of Abuse
We encourage you to contact our office to schedule a free consultation with a California abuse and injury lawyer. Call 1-650-513-6111 for more information or to schedule your free case review.