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Hilo Veterans Home Under New Management

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Elena Cabatu
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Barbara Dawson-Perry became the first resident at Hilo's Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on January 8.

The Yukio Okutsu State Veteran’s Home on the Big Island is officially under new management. This comes just months after a COVID-19 outbreak at the Hilo nursing home claimed the lives of 27 residents and infected more than 100 residents and staff.

Kau?i Chartrand is the new administrator for the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home. She spent the day Friday overseeing the administering of the first COVID-19 vaccines to residents and staff.

“I can’t tell you – staff were excited. We were delighted. You know this has been long awaited,” says Chartrand.

The Hilo nursing home became a hotspot for the coronavirus last August. A COVID-19 outbreak infected 35 staff and 71 residents, including 27 who lost their lives. It also led to the removal of Avalon Health Care, the Utah-based company that ran the home since it opened in 2007.

Chartrand says compliance and transparency remain top management priorities, but her focus is on helping staff, residents, and resident families recover.

“So that when we move forward, we move forward together in developing or identifying systems that might need some adjustments,” says Chartrand, “But just to make sure that overall our operations are safe here for our veterans and for our community.”

Chartrand’s role as nursing home administrator is part of a new regional long-term care system in East Hawai i created in the wake of the Yukio Okutsu outbreak.

Since Avalon’s departure, the Hawaii Health Systems Corporation took the nursing home under its wing and created a management structure to provide oversight for all its long-term care facilities.

This includes Yukio Okutsu, Hilo Medical Center?s Extended Care Facility, Hale Ho??la H?m?kua, and Ka?? Hospital.

Elena Cabatu is the director of public affairs for the Hawai?i Health Systems Corporation’s East Hawai?i region.

“We didn t just you know welcome them under our umbrella. We have systems in place to make sure that there is a consistent standard of care throughout our East Hawai?i region,” says Cabatu.

Many of the individuals tapped to serve in this new structure like Chartrand are long-term employees familiar with the challenges of providing long-term care in East Hawai i.

“You know, I think having that connection, of course, does help as far as being a community member and being here from the island, but I also truly do feel that any management system that comes with that approach of engaging your staff, that only sets you up for success,” says Chartrand.

The Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home currently serves 43 residents – about half the home?s capacity. Chartrand says they’ve put a moratorium on new residents until the leadership transition is complete.

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