Pictured in Little Tokyo on July 22 (from left): Mitchell Matsumura, David Monkawa, JACL Pacific Southwest District Governor Ryan Yoshikawa, Ray Fukumoto, Kensaku Nakayama, David Maldonado, Margaret Miyauchi, Yoko Elaine Takahashi, Ruscal Cayangyang. Everyone except Yoshikawa is a member of Save Our Seniors Network. (J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo)

The Japanese American Citizens League joins the call for a complete and thorough investigation and oversight of Kei-Ai Los Angeles due to the disproportionate mortality rate resulting in 115 deaths largely occurring between November 2020 and May 2021.

Rep. Judy Chu initiated the calls for an investigation with a letter sent to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator on Nov. 17, 2022. Kei-Ai-Los Angeles is a 300-bed skilled nursing facility owned by Pacifica Co. which served as a “designated COVID” facility from May 2020 to March 2021.

In sending her letter, Rep. Chu stated, “We must be assured that these complaints and these lives are not swept under the rug.” We agree.

We now know that seniors are the most likely to suffer serious complications and likelihood of mortality from COVID, and introducing a designated COVID facility to the Kei-Ai L.A. facility potentially placed residents at significant risk. Some family members assert that they never received notices that the facility was going to become a COVID-19 center.

We note that the Los Angeles County district attorney has initiated an investigation into the Silverado Senior Living Home, located in a more affluent area, with a much lower mortality of only 13 patient deaths and one employee.

The California Health and Human Services Agency (CalHHS) records show 105 deaths out of 230 cases during the pandemic through April 29, 2021, a 46% mortality rate. In that same reported data, there were 173 health care worker COVID infections, which calls into question whether inadequate staff training might have contributed to the high mortality rates.

Only a full investigation by appropriate authorities can determine whether lives might have been saved had Kei-Ai L.A. been more diligent in following recommended COVID protocols.

Once known as Keiro nursing homes, the iconic nonprofit was created by Japanese community leaders and funded by donations from the community. It provided bilingual bicultural healthcare for over 50 years. In 2016, Keiro was sold to Pacifica, a for-profit resort developer, despite protests from members of the community.

Save Our Seniors Network Legislative Director David Maldonado said, “We are ecstatic and welcome JACL support. This is a huge advance for the seniors, their families and the community. For those who lost their loved ones at Kei-Ai and also for those who were evicted from Sakura Intermediate Care Facility and were offered Kei-Ai Los Angeles as an alternative. I’d like to remind the community that the JACL supported the seniors at Sakura Intermediate Care Facility and opposed the evictions back in 2021.”

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