Rep. Ted Lieu

Residents from the Sawtelle District in West L.A. heard testimony on April 23 from family members and experts about the evictions of seniors at Sakura Intermediate Care Facility and the COVID-19 deaths at Kei-Ai Los Angeles.

Both are owned by for-profit resort developers, Pacifica Co., who purchased the former nonprofit Keiro Nursing Homes, former icons of the Japanese American community.

Three members of Congress, Reps. Judy Chu, Maxine Waters and Jimmy Gomez, are currently demanding a thorough investigation due to the high number of COVID deaths at the 300-bed skilled nursing facility in Lincoln Heights. 

Rep. Lieu was livestreamed upon returning from Washington, D.C. and stated:

“In 2015, I was very concerned to learn that the Keiro Senior Health sold its Japanese American nursing homes to a for-profit company without any public hearings. So I joined a letter with then [state] Attorney General Kamala Harris, now Mayor Karen Bass, [then Rep.] Xavier Beccera and 13 other other members of Congress expressing the concern that there was a lack of transparency and a lack of public input, and as a result the attorney general put conditions on the sale and created a community advisory board to represent the interest of patients and to help maintain standards and to make sure that the facilities continued to be safe culturally centered places for Japanese American seniors.

“Unfortunately, COVID then hit and we saw, in my view, some of these conditions were not followed. The place was not safe.

“We saw 115 deaths from December 2020 to January 2021. It is pretty troubling to see those statistics that are beyond the norm. I support Congresswoman Judy Chu’s call for a thorough investigation.

“I also urge the law enforcement agencies who have jurisdiction over this to also look to see if there was any criminality.”

Participants in the April 23 Save Our Seniors Network meeting at Stoner Recreation Center.

Lieu recognized Monica Mejia and the Sawtelle Neighborhood Council, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee, who pledged their support for the investigations, and Mitchell Matsumura of Save Our Seniors Network for continuing to advocate for the seniors and their families. Both provided testimony.

Margaret Miyauchi’s voice broke as she disclosed that staff at Kei-Ai LA, “turned off the in-room camera we had set-up to monitor my dad and they lied about his worsening condition. He had contracted COVID-19.”

Kensaku Nakayama described his Japanese-speaking mother’s accelerated cognitive and physical decline after being evicted and having less access to bilingual, bicultural care.

Dr. Takeshi Matsumoto, an attending physician for 40 years, stated, “We could see this coming long ago when they (the Keiro Board of Directors) sold the nursing homes to a private resort developer. They should have never allowed Kei-Ai L.A. to become a COVID facility in the first place.

“The county admitted that COVID-19 may have been brought in by staff from the environment. They must investigate that thoroughly due to all the deaths it may have led to.”

The Los Angeles County district attorney has filed “felony elderly endangerment” charges against posh Silverado-Beverly nursing home, which had 14 COVID deaths in March-April 2020.

In December 2020 and January 2021, Kei-Ai L.A., located in poorer Lincoln Heights, had 115 deaths.

“To not have equal justice applied would be an egregious example of systemic racism and silently sweeping Japanese American deaths away from view,” stated David Monkawa, SOSN co-chair.

“The possibility of DA [George] Gascon investigating Kei-Ai L.A. opens up another road in addition to the petition to achieve justice for those who died of COVID-19 due to poor care. We are planning a statewide education and petition campaign to demand investigations.

“We also continue to work with the California Attorney General’s Office to gain some reparative measures and justice for those evicted from Sakura.”

“Long term, our goal is to secure quality bilingual, bicultural healthcare for all seniors,” said David “EZ” Maldonado, legislative director for SOSN.

— Submitted by Save Our Seniors Network

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