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Well being Secretary Xavier Becerra Visits San Francisco Hospital Combating Off Closure

He visited the facility to observe some of the areas that Laguna Honda needs to bring up to speed in order to be recertified, such as:

Reporters weren’t allowed on the tour, but Becerra said he spoke to nurses and patients, who told him they hoped he’d protect Laguna Honda.

“Most of them were like, ‘Help us keep Laguna Honda open,'” Becerra said. “A facility like this is vital to a community and a facility like this understands that it needs to meet standards so anyone who needs to send their loved ones here can know they are getting the health and safety we would all expect , is guaranteed.”

It has been a year of constant uncertainty and crisis for staff and patients at Laguna Honda. In 2022, federal authorities withdrew the hospital’s certification after it was found to be non-compliant on a number of safety issues, including drug storage, hygiene practices and the use of a lighter near an oxygen tank.

US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra during a press conference at HHS headquarters June 28, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Despite objections from hospital and city leaders, regulators ordered the hospital remove as many patients as possible from the hospital while staff work toward regaining certification.

Regulators suspended their initial transfer requirement in July 2022 after some of the 57 patients originally transferred from the hospital reportedly died. In all, the deaths of 12 former patients were confirmed, almost all of whom had been transferred to other qualified care facilities in the past year.

Becerra’s tour comes months after local and national leaders, including Mayor London Breed and Senator Diane Feinstein, called on Becerra to stop the involuntary transfer of patients from the hospital, which previously housed more than 700 patients and is now less than has 600 patients.

Laguna Honda is still a licensed care facility. But losing certification from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which Becerra oversees, would mean removing the 156-year-old hospital from federally-subsidized health plans that the vast majority of Laguna Honda patients rely on.

The hospital is now working toward recertification, and CMS has agreed to continue Medicare and Medi-Cal payments through November. And all involuntary transfers will be suspended until at least May.

Becerra, who previously served as California Attorney General, toured the facility with Mayor London Breed, California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Gahlay, San Francisco Attorney David Chiu, San Francisco Department of Health Director Grant Colfax, and interim CEO of Laguna Honda Roland Pickens.

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