By Aaron Facundo, AsAmNews Intern
After continuous efforts to prevent Pacifica Companies from closing down the home of many Japanese elderly, the state of California has given the owner permission to close part of the Sakura Gardens facility in Boyle Heights, Save our Seniors told AsAmNews.
Sakura Gardens facility provides bilingual and culturally specific care for its Japanese residents. This type of care would be increasingly difficult for the residents to find, the families say. Additionally, the facility has not seen any coronavirus cases all throughout the pandemic.
Despite this, LAist states that the company loses tens of thousands of dollars each month because of low reimbursement rates from the state’s Medi-Cal program for intermediate care.
Individual residents and their families now have been given 60 days to move out.
Regardless, officials and residents united in a network known as Save our Seniors vow to fight the closure.
“They gave us a notice of closure during the pandemic which does not allow us to find adequate facilities for our loved ones,” Sakura ICF council member Francine Imai said during the May Day Rally. “How can we find the facility that is right for our loved ones if we cannot tour the inside of the facility? This has been a very huge problem.”
According to Save our Seniors, 11 Sakura workers have been laid off Four of those speak Japanese.
Save our Seniors Co-chair Traci Imamura told AsAmNews that this contributes to the feeling that things are getting worse for the residents for families that are still living there.
“We believe that the facility is intentionally changing the experience at the facility so that families will voluntarily move the residents out before it comes to that point where the facility probably has to legally try to evict them or force them out,” Imamura said.
Recently, eviction during the pandemic, specifically towards the elderly in living facilities, has gained attention from political figures.
On May 14, Assembly members passed Assembly Bill 279 (AB 279) with Bipartisan support.
AB 279 temporarily halts nursing home evictions and involuntary transfers unless it is medically necessary to do so. This would occur during California’s COVID-19 state of emergency. It is now being considered in the Senate.
“We need to protect nursing home residents during this pandemic from being evicted or from suffering transfer trauma,” Assembly Member Al Muratsuchi told Rafu Shimpo. “Nursing homes in California and across the country have been dumping thousands of residents in homeless shelters and other unsafe facilities during the pandemic to take advantage of higher Medicare reimbursement rates. Seniors living in nursing homes have been among the most vulnerable to COVID.”
Pacifica recommended that residents of the Sakura ICF transfer to Kei-Ai Los Angeles.
However, 105 COVID-19 deaths have been reported at Kei-Ai Los Angeles, Save our Seniors told AsAmNews. This makes their situation the “worst of any facility west of the Mississippi.”
COVID-19 cases are not the only concern for residents and Save our Seniors members.
“[The residents] are very worried and they know that there is no other alternate facility right now that provides them with everything that they get at this facility- and that is like culturally sensitive services, menu, Japanese speaking staff activities that are familiar to these residents,” Imamura told AsAmNews. “If you could just imagine even in this environment right now with anti-Asian hate that if they are dispersed to any old facility in the neighborhood, that they would all be separated in and broken up and made a minority again in their facility.”
Imamura also stated that a lot of the residents are upwards of 100 years old. This means that they similarly lived through forceful eviction of their homes for internment camps in World War II.
“Families probably had a real hard time convincing their elders that they had to move to something like a senior facility out of their normal home,” Imamura said. “And now they’re being, you know, displaced again.”
Save Our Seniors released a statement on May 22 listing demands on behalf of the seniors.
The network demands that Pacifica identifies alternative facilities that meet bilingual and bicultural standards that the Sakura ICF once held. Additionally, these alternatives must accept Medi-Cal and maintain the same level of care as the prior living facility.
Previously, Pacifica listed Kei-Ai Los Angeles as a possible alternative facility. However, Save our Seniors demands the removal of this recommendation because of its record with COVID-19 cases.
The network plans to appeal the 60 day notices, find other viable facilities and work toward passage of AB 279 with the help of Attorney General Rob Bonta.
These topics are to be discussed in the Save our Seniors general meetings which are held every Sunday. The next meeting will be held on May 30 and is open to anyone so long as they email an RSVP to [email protected].
Imamura urged those opposed to the closure to take the time to find out what is happening and to get involved.
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