Avalon ousted as private managers of troubled Hilo veterans home grappling with outbreak

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Updated: Sep. 26, 2020 at 12:15 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - After the deaths of 26 people at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, the private healthcare agency charged with the facility’s management is being replaced by the state, Mayor Harry Kim said Friday.

The Utah-based Avalon Health Care Group has been under fire in recent weeks for their handling of the outbreak, including accusations that lax safety protocols helped the virus spread quickly throughout the home.

Kim says the East Hawaii Region of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation will be taking control of the facility, a decision he found out from Gov. David Ige earlier Friday -- and one he had called for earlier this week.

“To have this happen, I don’t care who you are,” Kim said. “You are going to take it very personal, and we do, and I do think this will be good for the program in the long run.”

In a statement Friday afternoon, Ige said: “The state will continue to support the East Hawaii Region of the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation as it takes over the management of the facility and care of our veterans.”

Hawaii News Now reported Thursday that the troubled home has faced nearly $30,000 in fines for health and safety violations dating back to 2017, and inspectors have recorded a total of 14 violations at the home during that time.

Problems noted by inspectors ranged from minor deficiencies to dirty medical equipment and failing to provide residents with adequate supervision. In one case, a veteran known to wander was found three miles from the facility, and the facility is also one of only three Hawaii care homes cited for abuse.

When asked about the inspection reports Thursday, a spokesperson for Avalon that inspections are “an important tool that long term care providers rely on to identify areas for improvement.”

Kim says Avalon’s removal was agreed upon by all parties and could take two to three months.

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