VA team expected to arrive at Hilo Veterans Home on Sept. 18

Coronavirus

HILO, Hawaii (KHON2) — Tragedy strikes the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home once again, where a 14th patient has died from COVID-19. Recommendations have been made to the facility and a large staff of front line workers will be arriving this week.

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Mayor Harry Kim says while he wished help came sooner, he is pleased the facility is now getting state and federal support.

“They put their trust in us, ‘us’ means us everybody, and that’s why I feel we let them down,” said Mayor Kim.

But help is on the way. Mayor Kim tells us a team from Veterans Affairs (VA) called the “Tiger Team” is expected to arrive by the end of the week. There will be 10 to 15 professionals, many of them registered nurses.

“Their mission is to help implement the recommendations, provide training and oversight, and to provide needed staff and support,” he said.

An inspection team from the VA visited last week.

On Sept. 14, Avalon Health Care, the home’s managing company, sent us a statement saying:
“Following the review by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), we are working to implement their recommendations. Many of the steps recommended by the review are above and beyond those of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which we were already following.”

The Department of Health also did its own unannounced onsite inspection, with a report expected to be completed this week. The Department has also listed long-term care facilities reporting cases of COVID in the past 28 days.

Currently, 21 facilities in every county except Kauai are on the list, but the Healthcare Association of Hawaii (HAH) says the state has not seen widespread outbreaks in care homes, like many other states have.

“Overwhelmingly the outbreaks we’ve had have been managed very, very well apart from that one example going on in Hilo,” said Hilton Raethel of HAH.

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