Patients abused by workers at Laguna Honda Hospital, city officials say

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Nearly two dozen patients at San Francisco-run Laguna Honda Hospital were abused by six workers, all of whom are out of job, city officials revealed Friday.

At a news conference at City Hall, Mayor London Breed and city officials said 23 patients had been abused and mistreated by workers since 2016.

"There was a very unfortunate situation that has occurred," Breed said.

Grant Colfax, director of San Francisco public health said, "We are here to report something difficult, disturbing and disappointing to the people of San Francisco."

Officials say six employees abused patients at Laguna Honda. The hospital serves adults with disabilities and the elderly, including those who have dementia. The abuse ran the gamut.

"Sexualized conversations with residents," Colfax said. "Verbal and physical abuse. Neglect, privacy violations, medication errors."

The health department says some of the workers recorded the abuse and shared it in texts.  Patients were also improperly drugged with "the administration of non-prescribed substances to some residents in an attempt to pacify them," Colfax said.

Breed says this is especially distressing for her. She said her grandmother suffered from dementia and stayed at the hospital for years until her death in 2016.

"We are better than this," the mayor said. "We are committed to restoring the trust of the families and the patients of Laguna Honda."

Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee also has had family members stay at the hospital. 

"For this to occur on our watch, it's just - I don't have the words to express how upset I am," Yee said.

Officials say the patients were abused in newer sections of the hospital, known as North 1 and North 2. Their ages varied.

"This is all about keeping our patients safe," said Roland Pickens, director of the San Francisco Health Network. "Those 23 patients range in age from 30 to 100."

Their caregivers, meanwhile, more Nurse Ratched than Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. A statue of Nightingale sits in front of the hospital's administration building.

The fallout's been swift. The six workers have lost their jobs. The CEO resigned, and the hospital's director of quality is no longer in that position. Investigations are continuing by the city and San Francisco police.

Colfax pledged that nothing like this would happen again to patients. "I apologize to them, and to their families," he said.