Mayor Newsom Hears About LHH

The following e-mail was posted to the Union of American Physician’s and Dentist’s (UAPD) listserve.  Editorial annotations to clarify meaning are included in green text.


Subject:  A Chat With Mayor Newsom et al. on Laguna Honda
Date:    Mon, 01 Nov 2004 10:11:14 -0800
From:   <snip>
To: SF UAPD Listserve <>


At the invitation of District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, two members of the Laguna Honda Medical Staff and Sister Miriam Walsh attended a rally at Elsbernd’s West Portal election campaign office on Saturday [October 30] in order to ask Mayor Gavin Newsom where he stood on Laguna Honda.  Supervisor Elsberndt met them cordially and re-iterated his concern for the patient safety situation at LHH and will take action if elected.  The Mayor gave a short speech, as did Supervisor Bevan Dufty, in support of Elsbernd.  The three — Sister Mirian and the two MD’s — approached the Mayor, who was also cordial and open.

Q: Will you be meeting with Louise Renne and the doctors from Laguna Honda about the situation there?
A: Yes. yes.  I’m meeting with all those guys — Mitch Katz and Louise Renne next week.  It’s arranged.

Q: Do you agree with the way Mitch Katz is handling LHH?
A: I don’t have enough information.

Q: It’s a citical situation. The whole Administration’s been decapitated.
A: I only know about 2.

Q: No, it’s 4 or more, the CEO, CFO, Medical Director, Nursing Director, and all the Executive secretaries, using various mechanisms.
A: (Attentive pause)

Q: Are you concerned about the safety of the patients and the care needs of the elderly?
A: Yes, yes of course.  I’ve received lots of calls from Sister Miriam.

Q: Have you been avoiding the LHH situation because the Health Director’s plans for LHH go along with your Homeless plans?
A: No.  I’ve been inundated by the hotel strike negotiations.

Q: According to the Health Commission, the LHH changes are a done deal.
A: No.  In things like this there’s no such thing as a done deal.

Both Elsberndt and the Mayor came across as open, sympathetic and concerned.  There appeared to be no defensiveness, hedging, guile or annoyance.

Later, the three met with Christine Linnenbach, another candidate for Supervisor in District 7.   She is a Public Interest lawyer who had prior dealings with Dr. Mitchell Katz and had a clearly negative impression of his current management of the LHH situation.  She mentioned the “bait and switch” related to Prop.A [the 1999 bond measure to rebuild LHH combined with tobacco settlement funds] and the current situation.   She has visited LHH with Sister Miriam.  Her father was a UC faculty MD who worked at LHH 50 years ago.

The three then spoke to Tom A. Hsieh who had coordinated the media publicity campaign at LHH during the [1999] Proposition A campaign.   He was connected to the Fang family and the Independent newspaper who may have paid for his salary.  His father was an influential politician or judge.  He remembered us from that time.  Tom said, “I was shocked that Larry Funk was fired or resigned”  The three assured him it was a forced resignation and that they too were shocked, and also that a new CEO without long-term care experience had been appointed.  The need was discussed for concerned residents like Mr. Hsieh to look into the decision-making process involving LHH.  He assured us he would discuss the situation with Supervisor Elsbernd.

Ann Belessi, RN (Public Guardian’s Office, LHH Liason) has also indicated her concern.  She indicates that she has addressed Trent Rhorer [Executive Director of the San Francisco Department of Human Services] at a recent conference.  She told him recent changes at LHH had made it more difficult to place Conserved and elderly patients into LHH, and that the safety of some of her clients was at risk recently.  She also stated that this was not due to the staff, who were caring and committed, but due to recent policy changes.

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