Nearly two dozen patients, many of them elderly dementia sufferers, were abused by employees at a public hospital, health department officials said Friday.
Patients at Laguna Honda Hospital and Rehabilitation Center were victims of neglect and verbal and physical abuse between 2016 and this January, the Department of Public Health announced.
Six employees sent texts sharing videos and photos of themselves abusing the 23 patients, which included having “sexualized conversations” with them, according to a department statement.
A department investigation also found a pattern of patients being given “non-prescribed substances in an attempt to sedate them,” the department announced.
The patients ranged from 30 to about 100 years old.
The six employees no longer work for the hospital and its chief executive officer, Mivic Hirose, has resigned, the health department said.
Police and the California Department of Public Health also were investigating.
The city public health department owns and operates the nearly 800-bed skilled nursing facility, which is one of the largest in the nation. Its patients include stroke victims, people with dementia and those with various developmental and physical disabilities.
The first suspicion of abuse was uncovered in February as the department was looking into an unrelated employee complaint, officials said.
“As a caregiver I am outraged and heartbroken that our patients were treated this way. I apologize to them and to their families,” Dr. Grant Colfax, head of the public health department, said at a news conference.
Margaret Rykowski, the health department’s chief integrity officer, was named acting CEO.
Mayor London Breed called the revelations “profoundly hurtful, offensive, and heartbreaking for so many of us who care deeply about this hospital” and praised the health department’s swift action in holding staff responsible “for their horrific actions.”
“My own grandmother who raised me received amazing care for years at Laguna Honda before she passed away in 2016, and I remember the respect and dedication of the workers there in what was a challenging time for her and our entire family,” the mayor said in a statement.
Colfax said there was no evidence that the abuse continued past January.
“Today, we are confident that Laguna Honda continues to be a good place for patients,” he said.