Holyoke Soldiers’ Home COVID-19 Deaths Hit 80

By Faye Higbee

Veterans Homes across the country are experiencing  problems with COVID-19 deaths. But one situation at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in Massachusetts hit 80 deaths, a  product of what appears on the surface to be lack of personnel and/or poor administration. The State took over administration of the home and launched an investigation, and the Superintendent was suspended.

Of the original 230 residents of the long term care facility, 43 were hospitalized, 80 have died, and 82 veterans tested positive for COVID-19. And additional 81 employees tested positive as well. But the investigation into whether or not proper medical care was given continues by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Attorney General Maura Healey, and the federal Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.

WWLP reported,

“Superintendent Walsh was placed on paid administrative leave, when the state took over operations. The Board of Trustees posted the minutes online from their March 12 meeting with Walsh.

According to the minutes, Walsh said they were taking similar precautions to the flu, to protect their residents from Covid-19. He also said their Covid-19 response was approved by both the state’s Office of Health and Human Services and Dept. of Veteran Services.

Walsh also noted that they had been discussing Covid-19 precautions with the city, and were prepared to contact four outside agencies if the need raised for more staffing. Walsh’s attorney William Bennett told the I-Team Walsh’s documented communication with state officials has been handed over to state investigators.

FOIA requests by WWLP to Departments of Public Health, Veterans Services, and to the Executive office of Health and Human Services were denied.

A nurse at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home said that one entire unit had to be shut down because there weren’t enough employees to run it. That forced veterans who weren’t sick to be shoved into the same part of the facility as veterans who had tested positive.

“Veterans were on top of each other. We didn’t know who was positive and who was negative and then they grouped people together and that really exacerbated it even more. That’s when it really blew up.” Joan Miller, nurse at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home (Fox)

Most veterans at the facility are at the vulnerable age when COVID-19  can strike, yet we have seen veterans over 100 actually recover from the virus when conditions are properly administered, as we previously reported. Being elderly is not a death sentence if the facilities are being run properly.

Veterans’ homes across the nation are being hit with COVID-19, not just for the veterans, but the employees.  In a Spokane, Washington Veterans Home, 23 patients and 2 staff tested positive as every patient and staff member are now being tested, according to local station KHQ. That particular Veterans’ home has had only 1 death thus far, and that was a patient who had been on long term monitoring from underlying health conditions before.

The Holyoke Solders’ Home may have been the victim of improper care, or extreme staffing issues. When we get the verdict of the investigation, we’ll let you know.

Featured photo:Screenshot via  WWLP video


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