Keiro Board Chair Responds to Board of Supervisors’ Action

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The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on April 12 passed a motion that directs the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, County Counsel, and Department of Public Health to investigate the sale of Keiro Senior HealthCare’s four facilities to Pacific Companies LLC.

The facilities are Kei-Ai Los Angeles Healthcare Center (formerly Keiro Nursing Home) in Lincoln Heights, Kei-Ai South Bay Healthcare Center (formerly South Bay Keiro Nursing Home) in Gardena, Sakura Intermediate Care Facility (formerly Keiro Intermediate Care Facility) in Boyle Heights, and Sakura Gardens (formerly Keiro Retirement Home) in Boyle Heights.

“Los Angeles County is now taking action to investigate the transaction and to evaluate the community’s healthcare needs, so that we can work to protect the welfare of these residents,” said Supervisor Hilda Solis, who drafted the motion with Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Keiro residents deserve transparency, security, and dignity — not to have their fate left to real estate speculation.”

Supervisor Sheila Kuehl voted for the motion; Supervisor Don Knabe abstained; and Supervisor Mike Antonovich was not present but said he supports the motion.

In response, Gary Kawaguchi, chair of the Keiro Board of Directors, sent the following letter to the Board of Supervisors.

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The continuity of quality care was an essential part of sale of the Keiro Senior HealthCare facilities. The decision to sell the facilities was not an easy one and one that the Board of Directors of Keiro Senior HealthCare did not take lightly. Securing the right buyer that understands and respects Keiro’s history and unique cultural approach was critical in the selection of Pacifica Companies LLC.

If we could continue to provide the same level of care for our residents and remain economically viable into the future, we would do so. Without this sale, our board believes that the Keiro facilities would eventually be forced to close or would lose the focus on the Japanese American community.

The sale of the Keiro facilities follows years of discussions and public meetings. Keiro has always been transparent about the sale process. We have been speaking with and providing information to residents, families, staff, volunteers, supporters and the larger Japanese and Japanese American community about the pending sale since December 2013, through articles in The Rafu Shimpo, Japanese publications, and meetings. We always make sure that we provide honest answers to questions from our community members.

Since 2005, applicants to Keiro Retirement Home have dropped by 80 percent and our occupancy rates continued to fall. Vacancies of 7-12 units at Keiro Retirement Home have been common. Declining utilization by the community combined with the impact of health care reform on nursing homes and changing consumer preferences (many Japanese seniors want to stay at home as long as possible and/or are moving to facilities closer to where their children and grandchildren live instead of moving to Keiro) are key factors that contributed to the board’s decision to move forward with the sale.

On Sept. 2, 2015, the Office of the Attorney General of the State of California approved the sale following an exhaustive review process. A copy of the letter is enclosed, together with the 13 separate conditions imposed by the attorney general that are intended to ensure that residents at the Keiro facilities continue to receive the same standard of care under new ownership.

In a letter dated Nov/ 5, 2015, a copy of which is enclosed, the Office of the Attorney General indicated that it cannot retract its approval and described the conditions that had been imposed.

One of the conditions is the establishment of a Community Advisory Board that is primarily composed of members from the Japanese American community to effectually represent residents, families, and the supporting community. The Community Advisory Board is to serve as a link between the operators and the community and also is expected to act “as an important check to ensure that the residents continue to receive the quality care they deserve.”

The operators are required to consult with the Community Advisory Board before making any changes to the community benefit programs and any changes involving “culturally sensitive” matters. The Community Advisory Board must review and approve all annual reports submitted to the Office of the Attorney General regarding compliance with the conditions.

The claimed lack of transparency is not accurate, as our president and CEO has had ongoing meetings with residents, their families, the employees, and our volunteers about our decision to sell the facilities and our progress. The Office of the Attorney General has been provided with, and reviewed, the details of the numerous community meetings over the course of two years regarding the proposed sale. In addition to the numerous meetings, articles in The Rafu Shimpo have also kept the community advised of the proposed sale during this period.

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto, a regular contributor to The Rafu Shimpo and a current resident of the Keiro Retirement Home, has written numerous columns describing his experiences throughout the transition and has shared his observations following the change in ownership. In a March 9, 2016 column, he wrote, “…there haven’t been any noticeable changes.”

Our intention has always been to place the facilities in the strongest position possible, so that the new owner and operators may continue to serve the residents and the Japanese American and Japanese community as long as possible, at the same time using the proceeds from the sale to serve the ever-increasing needs of older adults in our community as well as those who care for them.

Keiro continues to support residents of our previously owned facilities. We are funding and completing several major facility improvement projects. Cherry Ishimatsu, current resident of the Keiro Retirement Home, reacted to the news of the improvements. stating, “I welcome Keiro’s continued involvement. The improvements are evidence of Keiro’s commitment to residents, and will help improve our quality of life.”

To maintain the continuity of services following the sale, the new operators have engaged Keiro to manage the volunteer program, which includes helping to recruit and orient new volunteers, oversee volunteer recognition, and create new opportunities for volunteers to remain engaged in supporting the residents. Individual volunteers as well as groups continue to give of their time in support of residents.

As an example, about 40 members from the USC Asian Pacific Alumni Association spent the morning of March 12, 2016 with residents as part of their annual Alumni Day of SCervice. Additionally, Keiro is continuing to provide education and programs for residents with a number of classes already scheduled and others to be determined based on the specific needs and requests from residents.

Our hope is that once you learn more about the transaction and the background, you will understand that this decision, although difficult, is in the best interests of our residents and our community. Keiro remains committed to meeting the evolving needs of our aging community while being a good steward of precious and limited resources, taking a thoughtful and deliberate approach in developing future programs to ensure we are making wise investments that improve the health, well-being, and quality of life of seniors in our community.

Please contact Shawn Miyake, president and CEO … who will be happy to provide additional information and answer any questions you may have concerning this matter.

 

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