Does an April Fool's Letter
Deceive LHH Supporters?

Has the Laguna Honda Foundation lost sight of what is truly important: Telling its fundraising donor base the truth about what is going on at LHH?

In what could easily be considered a cruel April Fool’s Day joke, LHH Foundation chairperson Louise Renne (San Francisco’s former City Attorney), and LHH Foundation President and CEO, Susan Cook Hoganson, mailed a letter seeking support of the Laguna Honda Foundations’ efforts to “transform” LHH on April 1, 2005 (April Fool’s Day) that includes factually incorrect information.

Ms. Renne and Ms. Hoganson signed their joint April 1st letter claiming that the “admission policy issues surrounding the [LHH] patient population, which were related to the transfer of patients from San Francisco General Hospital, have now been resolved [emphasis added].”

Nothing could be further from the truth, because the admissions policy dispute at LHH has not been resolved; factually, it is incorrect to say the admissions policy has been resolved, because many portions of the recently changed policy remain in dispute.  And if Ms. Renne doesn’t know that the admission policy issues have not been resolved satisfactorily, then perhaps she should not be chair of the LHH Foundation.

On February 15, 2005 Mayor Newsom ordered Director of Public Health Mitch Katz to overturn changes to the LHH admissions policy Katz had made unilaterally in March 2004. However, the LHH admissions policy that was implemented on February 22, 2005 — without prior review and approval by the LHH Medical Staff — still gives SFGH patients a higher priority for admission to LHH than San Franciscans from the community who do not have so-called “urgent” admission needs.  What this means is that if persons who are not currently in a medical facility (i.e., people at home in the community) cannot demonstrate that they have an “urgent” need — even if they have a debilitating, progressive, degenerative, complex, or chronic condition requiring long-term skilled nursing care — they will be placed at a lower priority for admission to LHH for skilled nursing care than patients at SFGH who have only short-term care needs.  The unresolved issue of patient priorities is just one of several portions of the policy changes ordered by the Mayor that were implemented on February 22 which remain in dispute.

Surely Renne and Hoganson understand the distinction between long-term care and short-term care needs, and surely both understand that the February 22 admission policy change does not adequately resolve the admission policy dispute that has raged on for over a full year.

But the pair go further:  Their April Fool’s letter asserts that the Laguna Honda Foundation is committed to raising private funds for furniture, fixture and equipment (FFE) for the replacement facility.  The pair do not inform their prospective donors that Ms. Renne helped engineer a second diversion of $25 million from the tobacco settlement fund that had been earmarked to build floors that hold beds in the replacement facility.   A settlement the City reached with Ms. Renne further diverts the $25 million first misappropriated from the replacement project to balance the City’s budget into buying FFE for the replacement facility instead, despite the fact that Proposition A in 1999 made no provision that tobacco settlement funds could be used for the purpose of acquiring FFE.

Of the $40 million Ms. Renne is charged with raising on behalf of the Foundation for FFE for the LHH replacement facility, $25 million has come from City public funds, not so-called “private philanthropy” funds, as Renne and Hoganson, however unintentionally, appear to possibly mislead their April Fool’s readers.

Finally, this April First letter seeks to have potential donors believe that LHH needs to be “transformed” into some sort of innovative new model of accessible adult care.  This is absurd: LHH needs to be preserved as a skilled nursing home for elderly and disabled San Franciscans who need long-term care.  After all, voters were told and led to believe in 1999 that Proposition A would provide the funds to rebuild a replacement facility for Laguna Honda that would preserve — not “transform” — our commitment to the elderly and disabled citizenry of San Francisco.  Had voters been told in 1999 that they were voting to approve funding to “transform” LHH into a different model of care rather than to “preserve” Laguna Honda’s long-term care model of skilled nursing care, it is unlikely the measure would have passed by 73% of the electorate.  When the 73% of voters who passed Proposition A spoke in favor of the replacement facility, they did so believing LHH would be preserved as the facility we have known it as, not transformed into some other type of healthcare facility.  Surely Renne and Hoganson know this.

If they do not, then it is time the donating, philanthropic community send this pair an anti-April Fool’s card saying we’re not fool enough to fall for this bait-and-switch appeal justifying a change to LHH’s model of care now, and we weren’t stupid enough to fall for it in 1999, either.

We cannot lose sight of the goal of preserving Laguna Honda for our frail elderly and disabled citizens.  It’s time we send Ms. Renne and Ms. Hoganson a clear message — on any day other than April Fool’s Day — that we want Laguna Honda Hospital preserved, not transformed, and that we want them to stop pretending that we have concurred with the false premise that LHH needs to somehow be transformed or downsized..

If  Renne and Hoganson truly want the “negative press reports” about Laguna Honda Hospital to stop, they should cease and desist from contributing to the possible deception of Laguna Honda supporters by way of April Fool’s Day appeals for support from their donors.   After all, the negative publicity facing LHH is being driven by the very decisions and actions of the Department of Public Health — perhaps possibly with the help of the Laguna Honda Foundation — to “transform” Laguna Honda from a long-term care facility for the elderly and disabled into some sort of “innovative” social rehabilitation center for other patient populations.



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