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Massachusetts governor seeks reforms after crisis at Holyoke Soldiers' Home

This May 2018 file photo shows an aerial view of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Mass., where dozens of residents died from the coronavirus during the 2020 pandemic.

PATRICK JOHNSON, THE REPUBLICAN/AP

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: June 25, 2020

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HOLYOKE, Mass. — Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker's administration announced Thursday a slew of changes to improve management and boost oversight of a home for aging veterans where nearly 80 residents sickened with the coronavirus have died, including more inspections and better education for staff.

The Republican administration outlined the reforms a day after a team of independent investigators released a scathing report that said "utterly baffling" decisions and mismanagement led by a superintendent who was was unqualified to run the facility allowed the virus to run rampant there.

An attorney for Superintendent Bennett Walsh said in a statement Wednesday said they dispute many of the investigation's findings and are "disappointed that the report contains many baseless accusations that are immaterial to the issues under consideration."

Baker said Wednesday that he planned to fire Walsh.

Baker's administration said it plans to push legislation that would mandate annual inspections and more frequent inspections of the home by the state's Department of Public Health, if necessary.

They're also filing a bill that would add two members to the Board of Trustees for the Holyoke Soldiers' Home as well as the Chelsea Soldiers' Home who have worked in health care as either as a clinician or administrator.

The administration said it will include a preference for a licensed nursing home administrator in its search for a new superintendent for the Holyoke home. It's also seeking someone for a nurse educator position, the administration said.

Starting this summer, there will also be a computer lab with 25 computers and a dedicated staffer to train workers, officials said.

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