Updated: October 2, 2022
Avalon Health Care has been removed as the managing company of the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, according to KHON2, which conducted an interview with Hawai‘i Island Mayor Harry Kim late Friday.
The news prompted response from both US Senator Brian Schatz and US Representative Tulsi Gabbard.
Earlier this month as the COVID-19 outbreak worsened at the veterans home, Sen. Schatz called for immediate federal intervention to contain the spread and help save lives. As a result, the Department of Veterans Affairs mobilized a team to assess and support the veterans home and found a number of serious infection control issues that it says contributed to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak there.
“What happens next will be critical. The transition plan to a new management team must put the health and safety of patients and staff first. HHSC must also ensure that a change in management does not adversely impact staffing and census in other facilities and that all residents of nursing facilities on Hawai‘i Island receive care in the most appropriate setting,” said Sen. Schatz.
“My staff and I will continue to work with federal, state, and local leaders to improve the management at the veterans home and at long-term care facilities across the state.”
To date 71 patients at the facility have contracted COVID-19 and 26 have died. There have also been 35 staff infections according to prior reports.
Today, Rep.i Gabbard (HI-02) also released a statement on the management change saying:
“These veterans and their families sacrificed for our nation, and deserved the honor and care that Avalon failed to provide. I joined Mayor Harry Kim in his demand for this change and we will continue to work with the VA and all agencies involved to ensure necessary action is taken to improve the conditions at the veterans home, contain the spread of the virus, and get our veterans the treatment they need.”
Opened in 2008, the Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home in Hilo is the only dedicated veterans care home in Hawaiʻi. The facility is named for the late Technical Sergeant Yukio Okutsu, who was awarded the Purple Heart and the Medal of Honor for his bravery and service in the Army’s legendary 442nd Regimental Combat Team during World War II.
Since August, the home has been battling a growing COVID-19 cluster. A majority of residents at the 95-bed facility have tested positive, as have a mounting number of staff members.