Last Wednesday, families of veterans who died in COVID-19 outbreaks in a US nursing home held a meeting. They called for changes to the way Massachusetts controls veteran’s homes.
There are two state run facilities in Massachusetts, the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke and the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea. They are overseen by the state department of Public Health. Members of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition held a virtual hearing. During the meeting they said that Massachusetts’ two state-run facilities should be overseen by Department of Veterans Services.
The group said the board of trustees for the homes should also include appointments from the veterans community. And they want medical experts put in charge of day-to-day operations.
Group members include former leaders of the Holyoke home and family members of veterans who died in last year’s outbreak. They said legislation proposed in response to last year’s outbreak is insufficient.
“We are all here because of a tragedy that occurred because too many people were asleep at the wheel,” the group wrote in testimony submitted to the legislature’s Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “It gives our Coalition no pleasure to say this. And pains us a great deal, but this legislation is not the answer in building up our trust and confidence.”
Nearly 80 veterans died and many more residents and staffers were sickened in COVID-19 spring 2020 at the Holyoke home.
The home’s former top officials face abuse, neglect and other criminal charges, and an independent report commissioned by the state concluded administrators made “utterly baffling” decisions that allowed the virus to spread unchecked.
Holyoke home workers have also filed a class-action suit alleging they were forced to care for sick and dying veterans in “inhumane conditions.” (continue reading)