Hilo veterans home faces penalty for coronavirus control deficiencies


HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo has received a $510,640 federal civil penalty for failing to correct COVID-19 infection control deficiencies.

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This follows several unannounced visits by the Hawaii Department of Health’s Office of Health Care Assurance (OHCA) after a deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

The Office of Health Care Assurance Chief Keith Ridley said facilities are expected to be prepared at any time to demonstrate they are compliant.

The unannounced visits, on behalf of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), were designed to determine the home’s compliance with federal certification requirements.

The facility was cited for not being “in substantial compliance” and for causing “immediate jeopardy to resident health and safety.”

“There are a number of things that infection control that they failed to adequately do,” Ridley said. “One is screen visitors and others upon entering the facility. They failed to cohort residents based on their health status.”

Ridley said inspectors visited the facility three times. Each survey took about four to five days for a thorough observation of staff during their shifts. They also reviewed patient records and interviewed medical workers and administration.

Ridley said, “Certainly there was evidence that they failed to take the kinds of steps that anyone would have expected them to take once the virus entered their facility to prevent the outbreak.”

The veterans home did not correct those deficiencies and was ultimately fined.

The state took over management of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home last month.

Under the previous management, Avalon Health Care, 27 residents died in the facility with COVID.

In addition to the citation, family members of a resident who passed away sued Avalon Health Care over alleged malpractice and negligence.

Inspectors found the facility to be in compliance during a visit last month. The veteran’s home avoided a mandatory termination.

Ridley said, “It is our strong hope and expectation based on that corrective action, that there shouldn’t be the kind of outbreak that there was previously.”  

A spokesperson for Avalon Health Care said they had not been made aware of the citation as of Friday evening and was not able to comment.

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