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San Francisco sues feds over pressured nursing residence closure

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco officials said Thursday they have filed a lawsuit against the federal government over its decision to cut funding to a nursing home run by the city and the tight deadline it set to move all patients out of the facility that state and federal officials deemed was providing “substandard care.”

San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu said the order by the federal government to transfer or discharge all patients out of Laguna Honda Hospital by Sept. 13 has denied the city due process and put patients at risk. He said at least nine patients have died days or weeks after being transferred or discharged and at least three ended up in homeless shelters.

“We’re asking the federal government to exert compassion and common sense,” Chiu said. “Between the huge shortage of skilled nursing facility beds, we see potentially very negative consequences” if the facility closes. “Individuals will become homeless. These people have nowhere to go.”

The city’s lawsuit filed Wednesday against the US Department of Health and Human Services and Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra alleges the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, imposed an arbitrary closure, requiring the facility to shut down before San Francisco’s administrative appeals can be decided.

Former City Attorney Louise Renne also filed a class action lawsuit against the state and federal government on behalf of Laguna Honda patients and families.

Last week, federal regulators agreed to pause the transfers after several patients died within days or weeks of being moved from the hospital and rehabilitation center but the deadline to shut down the hospital remains.

CMS terminated its payments to Laguna Honda in April after two patients had nonfatal overdoses at the facility in 2021, and inspectors with the California Department of Public Health declared it to be “in a state of substandard care.”

The federal agency, which pays for care for the majority of the nursing home’s 700 patients, also ordered the facility to start discharging or transferring its patients ahead of a mid-September mandated closure.

Founded in 1866, the sprawling facility serves people who need long-term care but can’t afford private nursing homes. Many of the patients have dementia, drug addiction and other complex medical needs.

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