For the past couple of months, I've been following a story for The Rafu Shimpo about the sale of a Japanese American senior home. Keiro Senior HealthCare has been around for more than 50 years, starting as a hospital and evolving over the years into a comprehensive senior care facility, comprising two nursing homes, an intermediate care home, and a retirement home. Two years ago, citing the Affordable Care Act and increasing intermarriage among Japanese Americans, Keiro leadership announced a plan to sell their facilities and focus on giving classes about aging and caregiving instead.
A few individuals protested, but no large-scale movement mobilized until September 2, when the state attorney general approved a sale to for-profit real-estate developer Pacifica Companies. The approval came with 12 conditions, which in a nutshell require Pacifica to 1) keep rents the same for one year, and 2) keep most other policies (notably Japanese culturally sensitive care and acceptance of Medicare and Medi-Cal) the same for five years. Those concrete time limits added a sense of urgency, and a small protest group, called the Ad Hoc Committee to Save Keiro, grew and began to organize.
Keiro expects the sale to close in early 2016. Meanwhile, protesters have begun petitioning the attorney general and Keiro board members to postpone the sale and hold a public hearing. Usually, when a non-profit company sells to a for-profit company, the attorney general will hold a public hearing, but that can be waived, which was the case with Keiro.
The protesters are mostly over 60 and organizing with emails and hard-copy petitions. While over half of the Keiro residents are Japanese speakers from Japan, Keiro leadership are mostly English-speaking Japanese Americans. This event is exposing divides in our small community, along the lines of age, language, race, immigration lineage (prewar vs. postwar and beyond), institutional affiliation, and class. And my partner from The Rafu Shimpo's Japanese section, Nao Nakanishi, and I will be continuing our investigation for the next couple of months at least.
You can follow our coverage in both English and Japanese here and check out my latest contributions below:
- Keiro Addresses Community at Open Meeting (reporting)
The first public meeting of Keiro leadership and community protesters (October 15).
- A Word About Our Keiro Coverage (column)
Background information about our bilingual research and writing process, a case for narrative journalism, and how the concept of "conflicts of interest" fits into reporting in a small, tight-knit ethnic community.
(Photos by Mario Reyes and Nao Nakanishi)