Laguna Honda workers allege unsafe staff shortage


Dozens of healthcare workers rallied Wednesday outside of San Francisco’s Laguna Honda Hospital, accusing the medical facility of creating unsafe conditions for both staff and patients by refusing to hire more workers.

The rally, organized by Service Employees International Union Local 1021, began around noon outside the hospital, located at 375 Laguna Honda Blvd.

According to union officials, the alleged employee shortage at the specialized nursing facility and rehabilitation center allegedly creates a “vicious cycle” in which patients’ needs are not being met, resulting in patients taking out their frustration on staff, with some instances involving staff being physically and verbally abused.

Theresa Rutherford, certified nursing assistant at the hospital and SEIU Local 1021’s vice president of representation, said in a statement:

“Our patients and their families expect to get better when they come to Laguna Honda Hospital /// Instead they find their recovery put in jeopardy because of the short staffing.”

According to union officials, certified nursing assistants are responsible on some shifts for providing care to nearly 30 patients, which is a ratio that results in poor patient care with greater risk for infection and bedsores.

“Our patients deserve better than this, and that’s why we’re calling on the hospital to address the problem of understaffing at this facility. This situation is compromising the care that Laguna Honda Hospital patients and residents need,” registered nurse Elizabeth Saiz said in a statement.

“Inadequate levels of staffing are leading to greater patient falls and injuries. People are getting hurt. It’s time the hospital administration starts paying attention and doing something about it.”

Rutherford said, “Currently there are several staff on Worker’s Comp and Disability as a result of unsafe staffing levels. Management has turned a blind eye to the situation and instead of coming up with a solution, they place the blame squarely at the feet of the employees. Several employees have been disciplined because of management’s inability to effectively address safe staffing levels.”

According to Rachael Kagan, spokeswoman for the San Francisco Public Health Department, which runs Laguna Honda Hospital, the facility is well staffed.

“We don’t agree with the union’s assessment. We certainly respect the union’s right to express their opinion. The safety of our patients and staff is our top priority and Laguna Honda is no exception,” she said.

SEIU Local 1021 spokesman Carlos Rivera said, “The workers out there today were championing something the communities want and that’s a public health system that takes care of the disabled, mentally ill and elderly. San Francisco is able to do a better job to make sure that these people live in dignity and low staffing levels at this hospital are not going to do it.”

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