Hawaii Department of Health issues $828K fine for unlicensed care home

The state health department fined Island Promise Homes LLC $ 828,000 for allegedly operating an adult nursing home without a license, part of a larger effort in recent years to rule an industry that has health and safety regulations has bypassed.

State inspectors, following a complaint, conducted two unannounced inspections of the home at 94-947 Lumihoahu St., Waipahu. During both investigations in December 2018 and July 2020, inspectors confirmed that unrelated residents were being cared for at home, according to a press release from the Ministry of Health.

Island Promise Homes LLC is owned by Anita Felipe, a registered nurse who operates three licensed adult nursing homes in Honolulu.

Felipe admitted she was caring for people in the unlicensed facility, according to the Health Department, and records show that four residents who were living in the Waipahu house at the time of the second inspection were transferred to a Felipes-licensed nursing home later this month. According to health authorities, there are currently no other residents in the unlicensed house.

An adult nursing home is defined as any facility that provides full-time accommodation for a fee to unrelated adults, usually seniors, who need help with daily life, including health services. The facilities offer a lower level of care than a medium-sized, qualified nursing or acute care facility. According to state law, they must be licensed.

Felipe was fined $ 1,000 for every day the facility was operational from April 24, 2018 to July 29, 2020, which equates to 828 days.

Felipe, who did not respond to a request for comment, has 20 days to contest the order and request a hearing; otherwise it becomes final.

State health officials began cracking down on the retirement homes, often referred to as ARCHs, after state lawmakers passed Act 148 in 2018, which empowered the Department of Health to examine and enter unlicensed care facilities. Under the law, healthcare providers who knowingly refer clients to unlicensed homes can also be fined.

At the time, it was estimated that up to 100-200 unlicensed nursing homes across the state were operating under what was known as an “aging-in-place” model. The operators of the unlicensed homes were able to bypass health and safety regulations and the Department of Health’s annual inspections, while their customers lacked the consumer protection offered by licensed homes.

During one Legislative hearing In November 2019, licensed nursing home operators, case managers, and long-term care navigators notified lawmakers that unlicensed nursing homes continued to operate despite the passage of Law 148, and that sometimes seniors and their families were unaware that a home was unlicensed. Some described a scheme where an operator with a license directs customers to unlicensed homes.

Health officials have fined and closed at least seven adult nursing homes in the past two years.

There is more than 460 licensed homes active throughout the state.

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