THROUGH THE FIRE: Keiro — Too Little Too Late? Sez Who?!!!

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mary kaoBy MARY KAO

(Published Feb. 3, 2016)

Many a naysayer passes off the efforts of the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro as “too little too late.” Well, I have to ask, “Sez who?” The organized effort of the Ad Hoc Committee to stop the sale to Pacifica real estate corporation might be late, but you can’t say the groundswell of support to stop the sale has been too little.

Keiro Board members who brokered the sale to Pacifica rationalize that JA demographics no longer justify a need for this Japanese care facility. However, this is but a thin veil for profit motivations that mirror the overall health care industry in the U.S.

Giving the reason that it is only the Shin-Issei who have a need for places like Keiro, they have suddenly cast out the Shin-Issei from the Japanese American community—kind of like throwing your own relatives under the bus.

It seems the Keiro Board was quietly sneaking through this sale, hoping that “too little too late” would win the day. Since corporate board members at Keiro also conveniently sit on the boards of many other organizations in the JA community, their financial support of these organizations has put the brakes on these groups from joining the Ad Hoc Committee’s fight to save Keiro.

JACCC came close to this same scenario when Greg Willis was brought on by their board. His track record internationally has been taking over troubled businesses, selling them, and making a tidy profit from the assets that were sold. All of this while hundreds of workers from these businesses lost their lifetime jobs and pensions. It was only through the fight of French workers that this landed in a French court of law, which ruled the sale of their factory as illegal — giving Greg Willis international criminal status. But does that matter here in the U.S.? Doesn’t seem to.

So with our established community leaders keeping silent on Keiro’s sale because they sit in some donor’s hip pocket, it took might and courage for the Ad Hoc Committee to go against the naysayer tide of “too little too late.” And I applaud them and the Shin-Issei community, which has come out in force to fight this sale. They are not strait-jacketed by model minority myths or the internal politics of Little Tokyo or the JA community.

I’m not criticizing the Nisei who’ve taken this too-little-too-late line. Many Nisei don’t need Japanese-language care and would rather spend their money on other facilities with large Nisei populations.

As Keiro administrators have placed more concern over financial culpability and less on patient care, volunteers who once provided their labor of love have gotten disgusted and quit. This should have been a red flag to Keiro administrators and board members that they got on the wrong track.

A public hearing, which is legally required when a non-profit is sold, should include transparency on Keiro’s assets, i.e. real estate they have acquired from residents to pay for their care at the facility, and where the proceeds of the sale are going. Give everybody a good look at how money is being spent by Keiro administration, because it’s not cheap to live there. And whether there is legal culpability on the sale for residents who were committed to spend the rest of their lives there.

I myself have not been able to get involved in the activities of the Ad Hoc Committee because my 90-year-old mother is at the in-between stage of wanting to stay at home but needing more and more support to maintain this lifestyle. There are many Nisei and Shin-Issei women who want to live their remaining days at their own homes. With the aid of life-alert devices, 911 services, daytime and nighttime caregivers, and worried off-spring or relatives of these women, its becomes a crap shoot on how to best live out one’s remaining days.

My mother recently fell, and we experienced the level of hospital and nursing home care that exists today. The profit-driven health-care system is beyond ethical. I’ve been saying that our health-care system is driven by policy more than the patient’s real medical needs. And this recent experience has made this point very real.

While Mom was in the emergency room waiting for the doctor, different nurses came through to take tests. One came in and said, “Oh, I see they’ve gotten her urine test.” I said, “No, nobody has taken any urine from her.” If I hadn’t been there, I don’t know if Mom would have confronted them on their erroneous report. The nurse responded with, “Well, it’s marked off here that they took urine.” And I said, “Well, its wrong, because they haven’t.”

That was just the ER. Then when she got discharged from the hospital to go to the nursing home, the doctor wrote things in the report that were completely made up — he hardly talked to Mom during his daily rounds, never examined her, nor even asked her how she was feeling.

More of the same at the nursing home. Things written on her chart that didn’t really happen, most likely because they are going to bill Medicare for it. The “diabetic diet plate” she gets for meals is full of carbohydrates and rarely any fresh vegetables — a sure bet to send her glucose numbers higher. Its kind of shocking to see doctors and nurses practicing these policies when the reading public has more knowledge on what constitutes decent health care. But they go through their routines, and I’m willing to bet these policies and practices are designed to get the nursing home the biggest bang for its Medicare buck.

So, sad but true, Keiro is just another example of this health-care policy conspiracy on how to stay financially culpable while keeping the pharmaceuticals happy and giving the appearance that your health needs are being served.

Whether or not its too little too late for Keiro, it’s the fight and the learning process involved in the fight that is a healthy outcome and one that makes me proud to be Japanese American. It is instructive to us as a community to know who are the forces controlling the outcomes of long-standing community institutions.

If we don’t know how to fight as a community — Shin-Issei, Nisei, Sansei, Yonsei alike — then what will we have left except some rich board members’ visions of what our community should be like? Congresswoman Maxine Waters has taken the lead in calling out Attorney General Kamala Harris for “waiving the law” on the public hearing for the sale of a non-profit facility. We as Japanese Americans have a long history of political alliances and friendship with African Americans that we cannot forget.

As they say in the Korean dramas that my husband and I have recently gotten addicted to — “Fighting!” (with a little fist pump). Or as we say— Ganbatte! Unfortunately, I’m one of those Sansei who has been pretty well uprooted from the Japanese language and culture, so here’s what I found online: ファイト~! (faito!) or ファイトだ~! (faito da!)!!!

Mary Uyematsu Kao has worked at the UCLA Asian American Studies Center since 1987. She received her MA from UCLA Asian American Studies in 2007. She can be reached for comments, questions, and/or criticisms at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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