SF’s Plan to Keep Laguna Honda Draws Protest

Disability Rights Activists Say City’s Nursing Home Too Large

See the original article in The San Francisco Chronicle

Kathleen Sullivan, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published 4:00 am, Saturday, October 20, 2001

A disability rights group known for civil disobedience is scheduled to protest tomorrow San Francisco’s plans to rebuild Laguna Honda Hospital, the nursing home the group considers a “dinosaur.”

Activists from ADAPT — Americans Disabled for Attendant Programs — plan to march around the hospital as part of their effort to oppose its reconstruction.

The group, which is holding its semiannual meeting in San Francisco through Wednesday, also plans deliver a petition to City Hall, asking for a public forum to reconsider the $401.6 million construction project.

“We support exploring all alternatives to the rebuilding of Laguna Honda as a nursing home, and support all efforts to transition or divert people with disabilities, including seniors, from institutional settings,” it says.

Although voters overwhelmingly approved a 1999 bond measure to rebuild Laguna Honda, ADAPT and other disability rights groups continue to oppose the project.

“We don’t think anybody, old or young, needs to be institutionalized,” said ADAPT spokesman Bob Kafka. “They need to be supported in the community.”

ADAPT, which is based in Denver, has more than 5,000 members across the country.

Kafka criticized the high cost of providing medical care at Laguna Honda. He also decried the size and layout of the hospital, which has 1,065 residents, most of whom live in open wards.

When the new hospital is completed in 2009, the open wards will be gone, replaced by rooms for one, two or four people.

But the new design has not mollified ADAPT or the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, which sued San Francisco and several state agencies last year, charging that they had violated federal law by denying community care to 10 residents.

“We absolutely support and agree with our ADAPT colleagues that Laguna Honda Hospital is a symbol of all that’s wrong with services for people with disabilities and for seniors,” said Marilyn Golden, a spokeswoman for the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund in Berkeley.

“The disability movement as a whole is working to emphasize home- and community-based options for housing and services, and San Francisco is really bucking the trend by rebuilding the country’s largest nursing home.”

Laguna Honda, which serves the city’s poorest citizens, provides 24-hour nursing care to frail, elderly people, and younger patients with progressive nerve diseases, head injuries and AIDS.

The new complex will house 1,200 residents in four nursing buildings. An assisted living center for 140 residents is expected to open in 2012.

Dr. Mitchell Katz, director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health, which oversees Laguna Honda, said the new hospital will provide the privacy residents deserve and continue to meet their needs for 24-hour care.

“Most counties say: ‘Twenty-four hour care is nice, but it’s too expensive and we’re not willing to pay for that,'” he said. “San Francisco is unique in its willingness to pay for that. It’s hard to feel that’s a flaw.”

Katz defended San Francisco’s commitment to providing home- and community-based care, saying that the county spends more per capita on such services than any other county in the state.

Included among its programs are adult day health centers serving 1,800 people; in-home services for 10,400 low-income residents with chronic and disabling conditions who need help bathing, eating and dressing; and hotel rooms — with nurses and social workers on staff — for people released from Laguna Honda and San Francisco General Hospital.