HomeJapanese AmericanLetter from advocates calls for investigation of LA nursing home

Letter from advocates calls for investigation of LA nursing home

By Akemi Tamanaha, Associate Editor

Two Asian American organizations have written a letter supporting Rep. Judy Chu’s (D-CA) call for an investigation into the 115 COVID deaths at a Los Angeles nursing home called Kei Ai LA, where many Japanese American and other Asian American seniors reside.

For months, an organization called Save Our Seniors Network (SOSN) and its allies have been calling for an investigation into the high number of COVID deaths at Kei-Ai Los Angeles. In November 2022, Rep. Judy Chu drafted her own letter asking the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a federal agency, to look into the deaths.

SOSN and the Japanese American Citizens League have now written their own letter supporting Chu’s position and renewing calls for an investigation.

“In sending her letter, Rep. Chu stated, ‘We must be assured that these complaints and these lives are not swept under the rug.’ We agree,” SOSN and JACL write in their joint letter.

The letter also states that a majority of the 115 deaths occurred largely between November 2020 and May 2021 overlapping a period from May 2020 to March 2021 when Kei-Ai LA served as a “designated COVID” facility.

“We now know that seniors are the most likely to suffer serious complications and likelihood of mortality from COVID, and introducing a designated COVID facility to the Kei-Ai L.A. facility potentially placed residents at significant risk,” the letter says. “Some family members assert that they never received notices that the facility was going to become a COVID-19 center.”

The letter also reiterates a point SOSN has made previously: “Los Angeles County District Attorney has initiated an investigation into [Silverado Beverly Place].” Executives from that facility, which is located in a wealthy part of Los Angeles, were charged in March after a COVID outbreak led to the deaths of 13 patients.

“If you know a swank white area of town with 13 people dead is going to be investigated for felony elder endangerment not to investigate Kei Ai LA would be horribly egregiously racist,” SOSN co-chair David Monkawa said in a brief interview with AsAmNews.

According to the letter, “California Health and Human Services Agency (CalHHS) records show 105 deaths out of 230 cases during the pandemic through April 29, 2021.” It also claims there were 173 healthcare worker infections, “which calls into question whether inadequate staff training might have contributed to the high mortality rates.”

“Only a full investigation by appropriate authorities can determine whether lives might have been saved had Kei-Ai L.A. been more diligent in following recommended COVID protocols,” the letter states.”

There is also currently an open investigation into the death of a charge nurse at the facility on April 19, 2020. Records for Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is part of the U.S. Department of Labor, say the nurse had contracted COVID seven days prior after working with a resident.

OSHA has cited Kei-Ai Los Angeles with four serious violations that carry penalties of $13,500. According to the records, the citations are currently being disputed by Kei-Ai.

OSHA handles violations related to employee safety and health issues. It likely does not have the jurisdiction to launch a complete investigation into the deaths of 115 patients.

Many Japanese American community members believe that the problems at Kei-Ai began long before the COVID-19 pandemic when its parent non-profit Keiro sold its nursing homes to a for-profit company called Pacifica Co. SOSN says that the company stood to gain from the money given to “designated COVID” facilities.

“We believe that money, that profit was a big incentive for the nursing home to risk bringing in hundreds of COVID patients into a facility that had no COVID, that was COVID-free. It was motivated by profit,” Monkawa said.

AsAmNews is published by the non-profit, Asian American Media Inc. Follow us on FacebookX, InstagramTikTok and YouTube. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to support our efforts to produce diverse content about the AAPI communities. We are supported in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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