New management takes over Hilo veterans home struck by virus

New management takes over Hilo veterans home struck by virus
Yukio Okustu State Veterans Home (Source: HNN)

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii island veterans home that suffered a coronavirus outbreak resulting in several patient deaths is under new management.

The Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo will be operated by the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation under the management of Administrator Kau’i Chartrand, Hawaii Public Radio reported Monday.

An August COVID-19 outbreak at Yukio Okutsu infected 35 staff and 71 residents, including 27 who died.

The state-owned health care organization took over the home in an agreement resulting in Utah-based Avalon Health Care relinquishing control of the facility, which the company had run since it opened in 2007.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave the home a health inspection rating of one star out of five.

The veterans home committed multiple health violations between 2018 and 2019 and had been fined twice since 2018, paying almost $21,000 in 2018 and about $9,000 in 2019.

Avalon did not immediately respond to an email Tuesday morning morning seeking comment.

Yukio Okutsu State currently serves 43 residents, about half of its capacity. The home has placed a moratorium on new residents until the leadership transition is complete, Chartrand said.

Compliance and transparency remain top management priorities, but the focus will be on helping staff, residents and families recover, Chartrand said.

“So that when we move forward, we move forward together in developing or identifying systems that might need some adjustments,” Chartrand said. “But just to make sure that overall our operations are safe here for our veterans and for our community.”

Chartrand’s administrator role is part of a regional, long-term care system created by Hawaii Health Systems Corporation in the wake of the Yukio Okutsu outbreak.

An updated management structure is expected to provide oversight for all of the corporation’s long-term care facilities including Yukio Okutsu, Hilo Medical Center’s Extended Care Facility, Hale Hoola Hamakua, and Kau Hospital.

“We have systems in place to make sure that there is a consistent standard of care throughout our East Hawaii region,” said Elena Cabatu, the East Hawaii director of public affairs.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.