Originally published in the Rafu Shimpo, January 9, 2021
By DAVID MONKAWA
Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi’s proposed bill to ban drastic changes to the delivery of healthcare in nursing homes during the pandemic is badly needed and would stop local owners, like Pacifica Co., from replacing their Sakura Intermediate Care Facility (ICF) with apartments.
The bill also calls for extending the “Conditions of Sale” that are imposed on private for-profit companies like Pacifica, which bought and took over non-profit Keiro in 2016.
If the “Conditions” are extended for Pacifica, bilingual/bicultural services, affordable rents and housing security would continue and the ICF could not be replaced. The alleged “rent subsidies” provided to residents at Sakura Gardens would also continue. “Subsidies” for which there are no records and no transparent application process as required by law.
The bill may be introduced in January 2021. Unfortunately, the expiration date for the “Conditions of Sale” for all of Pacifica’s facilities is Feb. 1, 2021. So the bill will not be in time to impact Pacifica’s facilities. Once the Conditions expire, a sort of firewall surrounding all four facilities, the community must fight against major reductions and changes to services facility-by-facility, including stopping the replacement of the ICF through the city.
However, the first part of Muratsuchi’s proposed bill, if passed, could impose a halt on drastic changes to the delivery of healthcare during the pandemic and still prevent the ICF from being replaced, even if the Conditions expire. For example, if the bill passes later in 2021, and move-outs have begun at the ICF, it may halt the process. Or the community could appeal to the city to halt the ICF replacement.
But these tactics will not bring back the guarantees for bilingual care, affordable rent etc. required by the Conditions. Pacifica has been silent on what they plan for the other facilities once the Conditions expire.
All 342 of the seniors at all four Pacifica facilities on three campuses, including the 64 in the ICF, deserve to have the Conditions extended because the promises to keep the status quo for five years have not been kept.
• Bilingual staff and services have been decreased. Medicare beds (higher reimbursements) have been increased while Medi-Cal (for low income) have decreased.
• Pacifica failed to pass annual compliance tests on how they were implementing the Conditions in 2018 and 2019. The potentially illegal “rent subsidies” must be redressed.Pacifica violated Condition 10 in March 2019 when they unilaterally tried to get approval from the Attorney General’s Office to replace the ICF. In October 2020, they applied to the City of Los Angeles for permission to replace the ICF with apartments to compound the original violation.
• As of March 2020, the facilities have been on lockdown and programming has been negatively impacted, despite the hard-working frontline staff’s efforts. Outside COVID patients have been brought to Kei-Ai facilities to recover, creating more stress. It is dangerous to make big changes like shutdowns and transfers during the pandemic.
Both Lincoln Heights and Boyle Heights are listed as some of the deadliest neighborhoods in the U.S. for PM2.5 (particulate matter) industrial pollution by the American Lung Association and by a 2019 USC study. Add to this the fact that Japanese have the highest percentage of elderly over 65 of any racial group. Bad air and age are key contributors to the spread and intensity of COVID-19.
At a meeting held on Dec 10 by the Community Advisory Board for residents at Pacifica, four0 family members spoke about the need to extend the Conditions. But at the same time, those families who face eventual evictions at the ICF must make decisions based on health, financial situation, doable visitation distance, and other personal factors. How many will “voluntarily transfer out” to avoid hassles or how many prefer to stay as long as possible is yet unknown. However, non-residential community members are strongly united to fight to preserve an iconic community institution.
Extend the Conditions! Extend bilingual/bicultural services, affordable rents and healthcare housing security! No replacement of any nursing homes with apartments!
David Monkawa is a member of the Community Advisory Board of Keiro Pacifica. He is presenting his personal opinion. For the complete AB279 Bill text see: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202120220AB279