Another Wrongful Death Suit Filed in Connection to COVID Outbreak at Hilo VA home

October 7, 2020, 4:23 PM HST (Updated October 8, 2020, 4:10 PM)
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Lawrence Akana

Another family has filed a wrongful death suit against a Utah-based company that manages Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo.

Attorney Jeffrey Foster filed the suit against Avalon Health Care Group and four of its affiliates in 3rd Circuit Court on Oct. 6 on behalf Lawrence Akana’s son and daughter. This is the second lawsuit Foster has filed on behalf of family members who lost loved ones during the COVID-19 outbreak at Yukio.

Akana, 70, was among 27 other veterans who died. Nearly all residents were infected with the virus.

Akana was admitted to the veterans home in October 2018 while he recovered from an infection he received while at a West Hawai‘i beach. Akana was tested for COVID-19 on Aug. 24, Aug. 27, Aug. 30 and Sept. 7. All results were negative.

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Akana evetually tested positive for the virus on Sept. 9. He died on Sept. 18.  His children were informed of his passing the same day, according to court documents.

“Lawrence Akana, a decorated Vietnam Veteran, died because Avalon failed to keep him safe,” Foster stated in a press release Wednesday.

Also troubling, Foster noted, was the lack of any communication by Avalon.

“Despite numerous calls by Mr. Akana’s family to the facility, Avalon managed to call twice — two phone calls a week apart in September,” Foster explained. “The first call, indicated Mr. Akana was fine. The second call by Avalon made a week later was to inform the family that Mr. Akana was dead.”

Due to the outbreak at Yukio, the facility underwent federal and state reviews, which showed Avalon failed to implement or follow infection prevention safety practices. A transition of management from Avalon to East Hawai‘i Region of Hawai‘i Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) is underway after local leaders pushed to remove the Utah company from the veterans home.

US Sen. Brian Schatz, supported the change, stating “The recent reports have shown that Avalon is ill-equipped to operate the veterans’ home and contain this outbreak. Avalon has also been unwilling to take responsibility for their mismanagement, so this was the right decision.”

Foster said he is troubled by Avalon’s refusal to take responsibility in this matter.

“Avalon failed our veterans and families want answers; families want justice,” Foster added. “Families deserve justice.”

Akana was born and raised in Honolulu and recently moved to the Big Island to be closer to his two grandchildren. He was an honorably discharged Vietnam War veteran and the father of two children that he loved and adored, Kawelu born in 1981, and Kawehi born in 1983.

His daughter Kawehi was also an honorably discharged veteran who served in Kuwait.

 

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