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State takes over Hilo veterans home

HONOLULU (AP) — A state-owned health care organization in Hawaii will take over a veterans care home where 26 residents have died of the coronavirus.

The arrangement announced on Friday will see Hawaii Health Systems Corporation take over as the operators of Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo. The previous operator, Utah-based Avalon Health Care, will relinquish all control over the facility.

Avalon experienced additional outbreaks in June and August at its Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center facility on Oahu, where 42 residents and 40 workers tested positive for the coronavirus. Five residents died of the disease.

The veterans home has had a history of falling short on health standards. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave the home a health inspection rating of one star out of five.

There were 89 residents living at the care home before the outbreak. Since then, 71 residents have contracted the virus along with 35 employees, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported.

The veterans home 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.

According to a 2018 CMS inspection, several residents have been found to have left the home without supervision, including one case where a resident on a wheelchair was found 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) away before any staff realized the resident was missing.

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

The state reported 98 new confirmed cases on Sunday, according to the state Department of Health, including 91 on Oahu and seven on Hawaii island. On Saturday there were also 127 new cases, including 124 on Oahu, 2 on Hawaii island and one on Kauai.

There have been 132 deaths from the coronavirus in Hawaii since the pandemic began, including 107 on Oahu, 15 in Hawaii County, nine in Maui County, on out of state and none on Kauai.

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