RAFU STAFF REPORT
Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis urged the California Department of Public Health on Wednesday to reject a proposal submitted by Sakura Gardens Intermediate Care Facility to close the facility and move its elderly residents.
The report, titled “Transition Plan,” was submitted on March 29 by Beverly Ito, Sakura Gardens administrator, on behalf of its owners, Pacifica Companies, with a proposed effective date of June 30, 2021. It states that as of March 23, 2021, Sakura Gardens would cease to accept new admissions.
In her letter to Cassie Dunham, CDPH acting deputy director, Solis says, ”This plan, if approved by CDPH, would lead to the displacement of these elderly people in the middle of a global pandemic. For most of these vulnerable Japanese American seniors, this would not be the first time in their lives that they will have faced involuntary relocation.”
The report submitted by Sakura Gardens states: “This transition plan is submitted on behalf of the leadership team of Sakura Intermediate Care Facility due to the impending closure of the facility. This plan represents our commitment to the safe transition of Sakura Intermediate Care Facility residents to alternate healthcare settings that can best meet their individual care needs and preferences.
“We have thoughtfully considered the clinical, cultural and psychosocial needs of our beloved residents when researching placement options to minimize the potential for relocation trauma and to promote individual informed choice.”
Last year, Pacifica announced their intention to turn the former Keiro Intermediate Care Facility in Boyle Heights into multi-family, market-rate residential units. Since then, family members of residents, public officials and community organizations have expressed strong opposition, citing the peril for residents, many of whom were forcibly removed and incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II.
The report includes a document, “Community Beds Available,” which lists facilities within a 25-mile radius with available accommodations. Among the facilities included in the list are Asahi Residential Care, Atherton Baptist Homes, Casa Heiwa, Hollenbeck Palms, Kei-Ai L.A., Kei-Ai South Bay, Kizuna House, Little Tokyo Towers, Nikkei Senior Gardens, OC Kaigo Homes and Pacific Sakura Gardens.
According to the “Transition Plan,” families of residents would be given 60-day notice of transfer in advance of the target facility closure date. The Notice of Transfer indicates that it would inform the families of the following: “Each resident has the right to remain in the facility for up to 60 days after the approved written notice of the facility’s intent to transfer the resident, if an appropriate placement based on relocation assessment and relocation recommendations has not been made.”
The “Transition Plan” notes that residents will receive follow-up supportive counseling from a clinical psychologist, facility social worker or interdisciplinary team members to mitigate possible transfer trauma. This team would also conduct wellness interviews with residents to identify and mitigate concerns related to the facility’s closure.
In her letter, Solis said the community beds proposed are “inadequate” because they do not “meet the ICF level of care, safety requirements and/or are unaffordable for those residents on Medi-Cal.”
The county supervisor further states that the move is “ill-timed because COVID-19 restrictions on visiting new facilities preclude residents and their families from making informed consent and at a time when hundreds of new daily infections are being reported in Los Angeles County.”
“Given the confluence of emerging pandemic variants and the exponential rise in hate incidents against the Asian American Pacific Islander communities, I join with the voices of advocates and affected families to urge the rejection of the Sakura Gardens ICF closure plan,” Solis states.
In separate correspondence on Wednesday to Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), Solis expressed support for AB 279, authored by Muratsuchi, which would prohibit a senior care facility from making significant changes to the delivery of residential care services during the COVID-19 state of emergency unless the owner of the facility declares bankruptcy.