WASHINGTON — Three members of Congress have written to the California Department of Justice to seek intervention in Pacifica’s proposed conversion of the former Keiro Intermediate Care Facility into multi-family housing.
The Feb. 5 letter to Deputy Attorney General Scott Chan from Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Gardena), Judy Chu (D-Pasadena) and Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles) reads as follows:
We write to express our deep concerns about the health and wellbeing of the residents of the four former Keiro eldercare facilities, most of whom are vulnerable, eldeMrly Japanese Americans, and to oppose Pacifica Companies’ plan to close Sakura Intermediate Care Facility (ICF).
As you know, the former Keiro Eldercare Facilities were sold to a for-profit corporation, Pacifica Companies, in February of 2016, and a set of 13 conditions were imposed on the sale by the (state) attorney general for a period of five years, which is scheduled to expire on Feb. 6. Keiro was a nonprofit organization that housed approximately 600 mostly Japanese and Japanese American residents in four facilities. These four facilities include the following:
• Keiro Retirement Home, now known as Sakura Gardens Assisted Living Facility.
• Keiro ICF, now known as Sakura ICF.
• Lincoln Heights Nursing Home, now known as Kei-Ai Nursing Home, Los Angeles.
• South Bay Nursing Home, now known as Kei-Ai Nursing Home, South Bay.
Pacifica has recently announced plans to close Sakura ICF and convert it to market-rate housing, following the end of the five-year period covered by the attorney general’s conditions. The conversion of Sakura ICF would leave the nearly 90 Japanese American residents without an adequate, culturally sensitive, and affordable alternative for a comparable level of care.
Pacifica’s plans to close Sakura ICF are especially objectionable, given the fact that Pacifica has failed to comply fully with the conditions imposed by the attorney general over the five-year period following the sale. For example, the attorney general required Pacifica to operate the four facilities “in a culturally sensitive manner of the Japanese American community” (Condition VIII). This includes providing services in the Japanese language and offering traditional Japanese food and entertainment options.
However, we have been informed that the number of bilingual (English/Japanese-speaking) nurses at Kei-Ai Los Angeles has fallen from 17 at the time of the sale to two, and the residents of the Sakura Gardens Assisted Living Facility were only served cold sandwiches for several weeks.
The appalling impact of COVID-19 on the two Kei-Ai nursing homes provides further evidence that Pacifica has failed to comply with the attorney general’s conditions. Pacifica was required to provide the same types and levels of care to the residents as Keiro had provided at the time of the sale (Conditions IV and V). However, according to The Los Angeles Times, as of Jan. 31, Kei-Ai Los Angeles has had 230 residents (out of fewer than 290 occupancy) and 169 staff who have tested positive for COVID, with 92 COVID-related deaths, and Kei-Ai South Bay has had 84 residents (out of 100 occupancy) and 65 staff who have tested positive, with 17 COVID-related deaths.
Clearly, Pacifica has failed in its responsibilities to both the elderly residents of the Kei-Ai nursing homes and the staff.
Pacifica’s proposal to close Sakura ICF is especially alarming in light of the high COVID-19 infection rates in the Kei-Ai nursing homes. Pacifica’s suggestion that some of the Japanese American seniors who would be displaced by the ICF closure could move into one of the Kei-Ai nursing homes is disingenuous, and the ICF residents are understandably too scared of COVID to consider these nursing homes an acceptable alternative.
Finally, it is our understanding that Pacifica has failed to provide the required certifications of its compliance with the attorney general’s conditions. The annual certifications were to be provided by Pacifica and its contracted operators (Aspen Skilled Healthcare and Northstar Senior Living) and approved by a Community Advisory Board (CAB) and the top administrators of each of the four facilities (Conditions X and XI).
However, the annual certifications for Aspen and Northstar have not been approved by the CAB since February 2018, and none of the top administrators for the four facilities have themselves certified compliance since February 2019. For the year ending in February 2020, no fully compliant certificate was filed by Pacifica, Aspen, Northstar, or the top administrators of any of the four facilities.
Given these circumstances, we support the request of Koreisha Senior Care and Advocacy (KSCA) that you prevent the closure of the ICF until Pacifica is able to demonstrate that there are adequate alternative culturally sensitive and affordable facilities to which the residents of the ICF can be transferred without fear of COVID contagion.
Furthermore, we respectfully request that you insist on certified compliance with the attorney general’s conditions for all four facilities for a full five-year period.
We appreciate your attention to our concerns and the concerns expressed by residents of these facilities and members of the Japanese American community.
Copies of the letter were sent to Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Chief Deputy Attorney General Sean McCluskie, Deputy Attorney General Melanie Rainer, Senior Assistant Attorney General Tania Ibanez; John Kanai, president, and Keiko Ikeda, Ph.D., vice president, Koreisha Senior Care & Advocacy (KSCA).