The state Health Department has assessed a federal civil penalty of $510,640 to the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo for numerous deficiencies, including the failure to correct COVID-19 infection control shortcomings.
The department’s Office of Health Care Assurance conducted a series of unannounced site visits at the home on behalf of the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency that oversees nursing home facilities, to determine whether it complied with federal certification requirements.
As a result, the facility was cited for not being “in substantial compliance” and for causing “immediate jeopardy to resident health and safety.”
Authorities asked for corrections, but on Oct. 30 found that the facility was still not “in substantial compliance” and continued to have “the most serious scope and severity of deficiencies in infection control.”
The 95-bed nursing home had a history of problems, and had been cited seven times over the past three years by the same federal agency.
When a COVID-19 outbreak struck the home over the summer, it spread quickly, with devastating consequences.
In August and September, coronavirus infected a total of 35 staff and 71 residents — 27 of whom died.
The death of a U.S. Army veteran resident prompted a lawsuit by his family.
The department imposed several measures against the home, including the denial of payment for new admissions and requested that it come up with a directed plan of correction.
Eventually, health officials said there were improvements, and during a followup visit on Jan. 6, inspectors found the home to be in compliance with requirements, sparing it from mandatory termination on April 16.
In addition to the monetary penalty, Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home will be denied payment for new Medicare and Medicaid admissions that took place from Oct. 18, 2020 to Jan. 5.
The state took over management of the veterans home from Utah-based Avalon Health Care Group on Jan. 1. The home had been managed by Avalon since 2008.