VOX POPULI: Koreisha’s Response to Keiro Board
There is need to correct the misleading information the Keiro Board has presented to the public in their article “Past, Present and Future of Keiro” (Rafu, 7/13/16).
Keiro Board members have stated that the community movement that opposed the sale consisted of a small and inexperienced group of individuals. Facts are that 17,000 members of the community signed the petitions requesting the attorney general and Keiro to stop the sale. The petitions were hand-delivered to the respective offices in the fall of 2015 and each event was covered and recorded by the media.
Their remark that the members of the grassroots movement were inexperienced is condescending and erroneous. The community members opposed to Keiro’s lack of transparency were people of all walks of life: physicians, accountants, social workers, attorneys, businessmen and women, university professors, prominent politicians at local, state and federal levels, nurses, staff, residents, their families, as well as past board members of Keiro facilities.
Politicians who have voiced their opposition to the sale were 16 congressional representatives, API Caucus members of the California Legislature, Assemblyman David Hadley, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis, and others. The experiences of all those who participated in the grassroots movement with regard to Keiro far exceed the 170 years of combined experience claimed by the current members of the Keiro Board.
Furthermore, the only surviving member of the original seven founders of Keiro, Mr. Frank Omatsu, has been very vocal about his opposition to the sale. Recently, Mr. Omatsu’s contributions to the Japanese American community, particularly his foresight in starting and developing the facilities to care for the Japanese American elderly, were presented to the U.S. Congress by Congresswoman Judy Chu and approved for preservation in the Congressional Record. Congresswoman Maxine Waters also took an active role in acknowledging Mr. Omatsu’s profound contributions to our society.
Keiro did not have a sound rationale to justify the sale of the facilities. Community outreach and education, which the Keiro Board states as having a far-reaching impact on the community, is not a substitute for the retirement home, skilled nursing facility and intermediate care facility that will continue to be needed by a significant number of English- and Japanese-speaking elderly. Most residents at the facilities are there because they have no one to care for them at home, or because their physical or mental condition is such that home care is not feasible.
Japanese and Japanese American families have historically cared for their elderly at home unless it was necessary to place their loved ones at a facility. Oftentimes, it was the last resort and a difficult decision for families to make. Long-standing community organizations, such as the Little Tokyo Service Center, the Japanese Welfare Rights Organization, and the Pioneer Center, have offered community outreach programs over many years for free or for nominal donations. These institutions have given and continue to give lectures and workshops by various professionals to benefit our seniors and their families. Prior to the sale, Keiro could have consulted with these organizations to do collaborative community outreach efforts; however, they did not do so, and instead, resorted to the drastic measure of selling all four facilities.
Keiro has argued that with the passage of time, there is decreased need for Japanese facilities. The Keiro Board has failed to recognize the ongoing and continuing need for culturally sensitive facilities for Issei, Nisei, Shin Issei (those who came to the U.S. after the war) and future generations of Japanese Americans. Many of the current residents are non-English-speaking, and they are in need of services that cater to their needs in the language that they are most comfortable with. There are also non-Japanese seniors who prefer to receive the caring services offered by the staff and volunteers. Keiro should have known the demographics of their residents.
Keiro has argued that they had disseminated enough notices to the community regarding their decision to sell the facilities. Investigations by community members indicated otherwise, that Keiro made erroneous statements regarding what was presented to the public at many of the meetings. Furthermore, they requested that the attorney general waive public hearings, based on their claim that the community had been sufficiently notified. The attorney general then granted the waiver.
Contrary to the Keiro Board’s claim that “a rigorous review process by the Attorney General’s Office took place before the sale,” our investigations into the correspondence between the Attorney General’s Office and the Keiro attorneys have led us to believe that due diligence was not taken by the Attorney General’s Office.
Keiro had anticipated financial difficulties in continuing the facilities, while approving Mr. Shawn Miyake’s excessive salary of nearly $300,000. The community has seriously questioned the approximately $71 million that Keiro now has, for which they have not disclosed any financial plans to the public.
The Keiro Board has claimed that the facilities under the new ownership “shows no change.” However, there are numerous complaints of staff, residents and volunteers leaving the facilities, a shortage of nurses and the added responsibilities that fall on those who have remained, decreased staff with bilingual language capability, and decrease in quality of services.
Koreisha Senior Care & Advocacy
Takeshi Matsumoto, M.D., President
Keiko Ikeda, Ph.D., Vice President