“Houston, we have a problem” is a familiar space-age advisory. Locally the warning has become “Keiro, we have a problem.” And all because of a letter to the editor that was printed in The Rafu Shimpo, Nov. 19.
Under a provocative headline, “What Will Happen to Keiro?,” writer Dick Sakahara outlined his plaint: A 96-year-old father has been a resident of Keiro Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) for the past nine years. As a victim of early stage Alzheimer’s who required professional assistance, he was admitted to ICF. “Dad has flourished both mentally and physically under (its) excellent care and environment . . . (but) this past week I received very shocking and disturbing news, that Keiro is looking to sell its facilities and that there are already interested parties.”
There is no need to reprint the entire tirade, but other questions posed included (a) how this could happen (so quickly), (b) how long have negotiations been going on, and (c) if the CEO and Keiro Board of Directors were acting “surreptitiously” by failing to inform family members of the current situation and ongoing negotiations.
[Transparency is required and it may put in doubt my being an unbiased commentator: My brother and wife played major roles in the creation and development of Keiro, but my only relevance is being one of 146 Keiro Retirement Home residents, just a nine iron from Sakahara’s father. Maybe I’m a wee bit better informed than most, but far from being privy to what transpires in the boardroom. I am not an authorized spokesperson for Keiro, any of its boards or staff. Nor a cheerleader. So let’s not shoot the messenger, okay? I’m just a Rafu columnist wondering why the Sakahara letter hasn’t resulted in additional commentary or criticism. The rumor mill is not a Li’l Tokyo specialty, but we’re pretty good at it when the stuff hits the proverbial fan.]
Pebble Beach has been sold, what? Three times? Last time I looked it’s still a prestigious golf course. Once proud Bank of Tokyo became Union Bank and grew bigger. New Otani Hotel didn’t disappear, only its name. Japanese Hospital was a defunct pre-war ELA relic on Fickett Street, but against all odds became the foundation for the proud and successful Keiro Nursing Homes in Lincoln Park and South Bay. The retirement home and ICF were once the Jewish Home for the Aged.
My point is that nothing is forever; ask any bookstore owner or television repairman. I’ve heard Keiro has held “conversations” with a number of interested parties over the past several years. All I know is what everyone knows: health care in its present form is too costly to maintain. Success stories like Keiro are being engulfed in the numbers game where conglomerates and large medical enterprises reign supreme.
[An irony is the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2012 – that Obama supporters are so proud of – is directly impacting Keiro. Negatively. There are more Medicare patients, private-pay beds dwindle and there is less federal subsidy. Shorter stays in treatment mean more open beds to fill more often. JA Democrats: Be careful what you wish for.]
The point is – and I emphasize it is mine alone – the Keiro campus will almost certainly be swallowed up by a larger entity. It’s simply a matter of when. The letter-writer wants to be kept in the information loop and hopes the powers that be employ due diligence – continually – to ensure the community’s best interests are served. The debate is about public trust: Do Keiro leaders keep the public apprised of their every move, report on who has offered what when? With apologies to a concerned Mr. Sakahara, I think not. Another question:
Would not his inquiry be better served if he confronted Keiro directly? An open letter in The Rafu Shimpo asks, “What will happen to Keiro’s Endowment Fund …? I write … in hopes my questions will be raised and answered … helping our beloved seniors like my dad and will hopefully be there for me when the time comes.” Why not write directly to Keiro’s director with your slate of questions? Why not confront the Board of Directors for answers to your concerns? The letter has caused a ruckus among staff, volunteers, residents and their families, but I haven’t seen anything resembling public reaction. [Which is not surprising. JA feathers are seldom ruffled to where they will sit down and write a letter, to anyone.]
The sale of the Keiro complex is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean everything goes poof and disappears. Keiro will survive. With no more personal knowledge of affairs than Mr. Sakahara, could be we’re both a little misguided. Which would make CR2S his peer rather than a seer. You can be assured your ailing father will not be dumped on your doorstep.Likewise, I don’t expect to become a ward of the state or my sons. Of course, I could be wrong on both counts. [Maybe I will ask “O.”]
If I appear a semi-Keiro apologist, my bad. I’m just a resident looking on the bright side, hoping nothing drastic happens during my stay. I’ll not spend my time worrying about something I have no control over. But if a sale is consummated and I’m stranded on the Fourth Street bridge, I’ll wheel my way to Oregon or, well, nah … maybe Idaho.
W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.