VOX POPULI: Evicting Seniors and Closing Sakura ICF NOT Due to ‘Losing Money’

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Traci Imamura of Save Our Seniors spoke for the families of the residents at a protest in February outside Sakura ICF. (MARIO GERSHOM REYES/Rafu Shimpo)

By DAVID MONKAWA

Pacifica claims it is evicting the seniors and closing the Sakura Intermediate Care Facility in Boyle Heights because they’re “losing money.” This is dishonest and hides the full picture.

When Keiro sold the four facilities to Pacifica in 2015 they were required to submit a “Written Notice to the California Attorney General for the Proposed Sale of Keiro Nursing Homes, Volume 1 and 2.” These docs contained financial disclosures that showed the ICF had been “losing money” for four out of five years from 2010 (-$5,000) to 2014 (-$23,000). Pacifica had to “swallow” the “distressed” ICF and South Bay Keiro as part of a “package deal.”

Pacifica execs signed off and knew before purchase that the ICF “does not generate net operating income.” These are public docs available to anyone.

Pacifica brags on their website how they specialize in purchasing “distressed assets” to flip for a profit. With the last remaining skyline view of Downtown L.A., Pacifica paid $14 million for the coveted Boyle Avenue property in 2015. Today, real estate brokers say it can go for $24 million, conservatively. Even if they “lost” a few hundred thousand each year on the ICF, Pacifica will still gain much more than what they “lost.”

Pacifica planned to financially “starve” the ICF and eventually close it. They had Sakura Gardens managed by Northstar, who cut off the transfer of private pay seniors to the ICF and began charging the residents at Sakura Assisted Living for “extra services” rather than encouraging a transfer to the more suitable ICF.

Pacifica’s cold-blooded behavior is typical in the healthcare “industry,” where the DNA of the system results in the elimination of services for low-income people of color such as bilingual-bicultural care. No “bad guys” to blame, just a constellation of policies, paperwork and bureaucracy that reveals what faceless “systemic racism” looks like.

Pacifica receives about $200 in reimbursements from the feds per resident per day for those on Medi-Cal. Medicare reimburses about $600 and for COVID-19 patients about $850. There is a financial incentive to NOT admit Medi-Cal patients into nursing homes. Once admitted, facilities think of excuses to get those on Medi-Cal out because the reimbursements are so low while the cost of labor and supplies rise.

Both the profit drive of Pacifica and the structural injustices of government funding must be “fixed.”

Only a humane healthcare system that prioritizes people over profit, like those that exist in most highly industrialized countries will “solve” the problem.

The real reason Pacifica is kicking out the seniors is not because they are “losing money,” but because they want to make a lot more and the health of the Japanese seniors is a lesser priority. As their attorney Sarah Short said, “My clients are interested in making profit.” Period.

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David Monkawa is a member of Save Our Seniors. Opinions expressed in Vox Populi are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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