Hawaii rescinds citation given to veterans home operator

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Department of Health on Friday rescinded an order and citation it issued to the administrator of a veterans home that has experienced a large coronavirus outbreak.

Janice Okubo, state Department of Health spokeswoman, said it rescinded the order and citation to ensure that the documents provided were fully supported in case of appeal.

At least 27 residents have died from a coronavirus outbreak at the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo. At least 71 residents and 35 employees have contracted the virus from the facility.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

The first operator of the veterans home, Avalon Health Care, told the state Department of Health that it is not admitting fault, but it has taken several actions to amend the health and sanitary deficiencies at the facility.

Avalon told state health authorities that the director of nursing or a designee will validate that contact tracing has been completed for anyone testing positive for the coronavirus and will ensure that proper use of the entry screening process is validated every day for 14 days, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

An Avalon spokeswoman, Allison Griffiths, declined to comment on the Department of Health’s actions because it is withdrawing its decision.

The owners of Yukio Okutsu committed multiple health violations between 2018 and 2019, including improperly restraining residents who did not require restraint, failing to adequately supervise residents showering, serving expired food, allowing a resident to fall off a bed and break a hip and incidents where staffers accidentally caused minor injuries.

Several residents have been found to have left the home without supervision, including one case where a resident in a wheelchair was found 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) away from the facility before anyone realized the resident was missing, according to a 2018 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services inspection.

The veterans home has twice been fined twice since 2018 for these violations, paying nearly $21,000 in 2018 and about $9,000 in 2019.


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