Hawaii state agency to take over Hilo veterans' home where 26 residents with COVID-19 have died

By ANDREW GOMES | The Honolulu Star-Advertiser | Published: September 26, 2020

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HONOLULU (Tribune News Service) — Hawaii government hospital administrators will take over running a state-owned veterans' care home on Hawaii island from a private operator that has struggled with COVID-19 infections and deaths.

Hawaii island Mayor Harry Kim said today that state officials and the operator of Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, Utah-based Avalon Health Care, have agreed on the change that will have the Hawaii Health Systems Corp. run the facility where 26 residents have died in connection with COVID-19.

Kim, who previously called for replacing Avalon, said he was informed of the change by Gov. David Ige.

“I consider this to be what is needed,” Kim said. “I really believe it is the best way forward.”

Kim said he isn’t sure how long an orderly transition might take.

Avalon has managed the 95-bed facility built in 2008 under a state contract. There were 89 residents living at the care home before the COVID-19 outbreak. Since then, 71 residents have contracted the virus along with 35 employees.

The Hawaii Health Systems Corp. operates 847 licensed beds in nine facilities located on three islands, including Hilo Medical Center, Kona Community Hospital, Leahi Hospital and West Kauai Medical Center.

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