ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2007
The Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home, a 95-bed nursing home and adult day care center located on the grounds of Hilo Medical Center, has taken care of or is addressing 42 "deficiencies" noted in a survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Hilo veterans home corrects defects
Administrators act following a VA survey that found 42 flaws
HILO » The new 95-bed Yukio Okutsu Veterans Home in Hilo has passed some "bumps in the road" and is adding residents, officials say.
In May, a survey team from the Department of Veterans Affairs identified 42 "deficiencies" in the operation of the home, the first in the state, open since December.
The deficiencies have been taken care of or are being addressed, said acting administrator David Kowalski. Many of the deficiencies were more apparent than real, suggested Kowalski and state liaison Keith Ribbentrop.
For example, the VA survey said a kitchen stove had no electrical cutoff. Ribbentrop showed two large handles with red knobs next to the stove for cutting electricity. But no sign had been posted stating their function.
About a month after the VA survey, facility Administrator Neil Oyama and Director of Nursing Kathi Highnote were placed on paid suspension. The two eventually resigned. Kowalski said the two departures were not linked to the VA survey.
"The survey has nothing to do with Mr. Oyama and Ms. Highnote," he said.
Kowalski said he couldn't explain further, and the two former employees could not be reached for comment.
An employer-employee agreement prevents both sides from explaining the situation, Ribbentrop said.
One finding of the VA team was that a resident on tube feeding was receiving fewer calories than required to maintain body weight.
Patient confidentiality prevented Kowalski from talking about the specific case, but in general, there are instances in which a patient may make his wishes about tube feeding known through an "advance directive," he said. Such directives can be overruled by a relative or other person who has power of attorney for the patient, Ribbentrop said.
"The bottom line is that the patient is fine," Kowalski said.
The veterans home is owned by the state under the Hawaii Health Systems Corp., and Ribbentrop serves as liaison from that agency. It is operated by Utah-based Avalon Health Care Inc., which also operates Hale Nani Rehabilitation and Nursing Center and Avalon Care Center-Honolulu.
The Department of Veterans Affairs did a survey because it reimburses a major part of residents' costs. Before the VA survey, the home had passed surveys by the state Department of Health and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Kowalski said.
The home has been slow to admit residents, because no reimbursements are made until surveys are done, and reimbursement is not made retroactively, meaning Avalon must bear initial care costs, Kowalski said.