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Laguna Honda Hospital funding threatened after Medicare violations

San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital is once again in trouble with state and federal regulators, leaving it in a precarious financial position, but city health officials insist the specialized nursing facility is not in danger. closing.

Following the April 14 deadline to clear a series of violations, some of which involved patients with smuggled facilities, such as lighters, federal officials are freezing Medicare and Medicaid funding for Laguna Honda in 30 days, and state inspectors have found new violations in their last inspection.

The hospital receives about two-thirds of its funding from Medicare and Medicaid payments.

There are more than 700 long-term patients at Honda Laguna Hospital, many of whom are low-income and members of vulnerable populations. If the cash flow from the hospital is interrupted, they may have to relocate. But as the Chronicle reports, the current situation may not be as serious, even as it seems.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) reported six months ago that the facility was told it would lose funding if it did not make changes to meet the standards required by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). . The hospital was then told to quit smuggling as drug paraphernalia after two patients took an overdose.

The SFDPH says the hospital addressed these changes. He says he also retrained staff and implemented a new main entry selection process and a package security inspection protocol to keep banned items going.

However, in an inspection this week to see if the installation complied, state surveyors found new problems.

These include problems with hand hygiene, documentation problems, and infection prevention and control. The Department of Health explained that unfulfilled standards for infection prevention were marked due to the lack of PPE signaling in a particular unit, two missed doses of a drug, and a single instance of a staff member incorrectly saved a facial screen.

“There was not enough time to address these deficiencies before the end of the CMS review period, and as a result, CMS moved to discontinue Laguna Honda from the Medicare / Medicaid program, which funds more than two-thirds of CMS services. Laguna Honda “, explained the Department of Health. .

DPH director Dr. Grant Colfax interpreted all of this as a fairly common routine at a press conference, according to the Chronicle. “Laguna Honda is not going anywhere,” Colfax said. And Laguna Honda CEO Michael Phillips added, “We can rectify that and we’re on track.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement Thursday that her office is working with Mayor Breed and the Biden Administration to help the hospital comply.

“The Honda Lagoon has long been a pillar of health and well-being for generations of San Francisco families. At this very moment, this indispensable institution ensures that hundreds of patients with critical and complex medical conditions and behavior can receive the care they need, regardless of their financial means, “Pelosi said.

Laguna Honda has been facing problems for some time.

In 2019, an investigation was launched to investigate allegations of ill-treatment of patients in the hospital. The Department of Public Health found that 23 patients in a ward treated primarily with dementia were subjected to verbal and physical abuse by a group of half a dozen employees. The Chronicle reported that the hospital paid $ 800,000 in 2021 in just the first of three lawsuits stemming from this investigation.

In 2020, at first, the hospital appeared to be in good shape during the pandemic, preventing some infections from leading to a significant increase, only to have another outbreak months later that killed 3 elderly residents.

The SFDPH says Laguna Hospital is reapplying to continue its participation in Medicare / Medicaid programs, and in the meantime is working to meet it.

“We understand that the decision made by CMS today may cause anxiety in our community of patients, families and staff,” Colfax said in a statement. “We will do everything we can to continue to serve San Francisco and we are confident that Laguna Honda, while working closely with local, state and federal partners, will further improve our care systems so that we can comply again. We will continue to offer a excellent patient care and support for our healthcare professionals. ”

CMS payment will continue for the next 30 days. The hospital is working to further extend this payment period.

“Laguna Honda is unlikely to lose the vital federal funding it needs to support life-saving programs for some of our most vulnerable San Franciscans, especially as we continue to be threatened by the pandemic,” added House President Pelosi . “That is why it is urgent and essential that city, state and country officials work together to help address areas of concern and protect this crucial healthcare provider.”

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