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Hawaii group asks for transparency after virus outbreak

Inspection report on Big Island facility where 106 staff, residents infected not made public

HONOLULU (AP) — A Hawaii seniors advocacy group has called on the state Department of Health to release more information about nursing home inspections after a coronavirus outbreak at a veterans home caused at least 27 deaths earlier this year.

Kokua Council asked the state to put all its inspection reports of long-term care facilities on the health department’s website.

The inspection report for the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, where at least 71 residents and 35 employees were infected with the coronavirus, has not yet been made public.

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 facility had been fined twice since 2018 for health violations, paying nearly $21,000 in 2018 and about $9,000 in 2019.

The owners of Yukio Okutsu were accused of improperly restraining residents who did not require restraints, 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 were found to have left the home without supervision, including one case in which a resident in a wheelchair was found 3 miles away from the facility before anyone realized the resident was missing, according to a 2018 Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services inspection.

A message from The Associated Press seeking comment from the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home was not immediately returned Wednesday.

The state health department last published an inspection report on the veterans home in 2019. It said in October that the inspections performed at the facility after its outbreak were actually federal surveys.

A state law from 2013 mandated that the state health department publish inspection reports on long-term care facilities within five days of the inspection, Hawaii Public Radio reported.

“In these facilities, all it would take is another uninspected facility to have an outbreak and more people will die,” said Larry Geller, president of Kokua Council. “This is something I think everyone should take very seriously.”

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.

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