Holyoke Soldiers’ Home hearing will feature staff accounts of coronavirus outbreak
By STEPHANIE BARRY | masslive.com | Published: October 27, 2020
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The hearing Tuesday at
At least 76 veterans died from the virus, which began to blaze through the long-term care facility in March.
The outbreak prompted resignations of top administrators and medical staff, and criminal charges against former Superintendent
Walsh and Clinton were charged with 10 criminal counts each related to neglect and bodily harm. They are scheduled to be arraigned in
Attorneys for Walsh, a decorated
The Pearlstein report called the merging of units “baffling” and “catastrophic” and quoted many employees in the midst of the crisis.
“A recreational therapist who was instructed to help with the move said that she felt like she was ‘walking [the veterans] to their death,’ and that the veterans were ‘terrified,’” the report read, adding that a social worker also involved in combining the units “felt it was like moving the concentration camp — we [were] moving these unknowing veterans off to die.”
A roster of those slated to testify was not available.
The 17-member joint legislative committee formed in the wake of the outbreak does not have subpoena powers, so testimony is voluntary.
A third hearing for current and former administrators is pending, committee members have said.
The goal of the lawmakers’ panel is to conduct its own review, identify root causes that contributed to the apparent breakdown during the pandemic and recommend reforms through legislation and funding.
“We continue to press the state on what we believe are the key areas that need attention, and we lend our voices in support of our family members who have been through so much these past several months,” the coalition said in a statement. “We ‘stand out’ to tell our elected officials that we support our family members, and we want to see action taken to create a better future for the Soldiers' Home.”
Velis said he plans to press witnesses on Tuesday about the need for an ombudsman to act as conduit between the veterans and their families and the staff and administrators of the Soldiers' Home.
“Families and residents need an independent, impartial and confidential person to talk to when things come up,” Velis said. “An ombudsman would be that independent watchdog on the ground who investigates issues when they arise.”