By GWEN MURANAKA, Rafu English Editor-in-Chief
“Kaese, kaese, nana sen man! (Give back, give back the $70 million!)” A group of approximately 100 protesters from Koreisha Senior Care and Advocacy carried signs, chanted and unfurled a long banner of signatures down the length of the Little Tokyo Professional Building, headquarters of Keiro Senior Healthcare, on Feb. 24.
The demonstration was the latest effort by Koreisha to bring attention to its ongoing opposition to the sale of the Keiro senior care facilities. Koreisha believes the proceeds from the sale should be put into building new Keiro facilities to take care of the elderly.
“The primary demonstration was about the $70 million and that it belongs to the community. It basically represents decades of operation of the nursing home, donations and volunteer work that went into it,” said Dr. Takeshi Matsumoto, Koreisha president.
Matsumoto said he believes that the board should apologize and resign for what he says is its failure to continue operating the four facilities. The facilities are now operated by Aspen Skilled Healthcare, Inc. and Northstar Senior Living, Inc.
The Keiro board has maintained that its critics are a small but vocal minority and that Keiro is pursuing its core program goals to provide services to older adults, caregiver support and programs for the residents of the former Keiro facilities. Since escrow closed in February 2016, Keiro has launched a series of initiatives including a grant program and a pilot project for Japanese speakers in coordination with the Orange County Japanese American Association.
The sheets of 2,500 signatures were handed to Leona Hiraoka, hired last month as Keiro’s new president and chief executive officer. She was joined by Gene Kanamori, who served as Keiro interim president and CEO.
Hiraoka, speaking to The Rafu, said she appreciates hearing the concerns of the protesters and was open to further discussion.
“What we have is a common purpose. We really want to protect the quality of life for seniors in our community. We also want to create more innovative ways to help caregivers. What I would very much like to do is find some common ground, It’s an important time to look at the bigger picture and the greater good,” Hiraoka said.
King Cheung of the Chinatown Community for Equitable Development joined in support of the Friday protest. He said that senior residents of Chinatown have experienced similar issues.
“They live in rent-controlled apartments and then developers come in and they bought them out and they don’t have anywhere else to go. We don’t have a nice place like Keiro for our elders to go to,” Cheung said. “They get spread all over the place, they go to places where they eat Mexican food and sandwiches for dinner so they are not used to it.”
Koreisha was scheduled to hold a general meeting for English speakers on March 11 at the Southern California Gardeners’ Federation, followed by a meeting for Japanese speakers on March 18.
“I’m hoping to continue to work with (Hiraoka) and see what we can do for our community. The thing that divided our community is the sale of Keiro. The only thing that is going to bring it back is working towards a new Keiro, a new facility for our old folks,” Matsumoto said.