Timilty calls for report on coronavirus-related deaths at Holyoke Soldiers Home

He said the Legislature’s committee responsible for veterans’ matters should receive a full explanation of recent deaths.

The Patriot Ledger

Apr 3, 2020

BOSTON — State Sen. Walter Timilty, the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs, is demanding that the committee receive a full report on recent deaths at the Holyoke Soldiers Home as well as the spread of the new coronavirus at the facility.

“We are looking for a detailed explanation of why there was a breakdown in care for these veterans,” said Timilty, a Democrat from Milton. “Additionally, we are looking for an explanation on what caused the breakdown in communication that allowed these deaths to go unreported until March 30, 2020.”

As of Friday, there were 21 recent deaths at the state-run facility, 15 of them from COVID-19, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders said.

All veteran residents at the state-run facility have been tested. Sudders said 59 veterans tested positive for COVID-19 and 160 tested negative.

The home had already been put under the control of an interim superintendent and clinical command team — and an investigation into how the situation got out of hand was launched — but Sudders said Friday that the home has now added an infection control nurse to its staff and has split into separate units for veterans who have tested positive and for those who tested negative.

Vietnam-era veterans were the largest population at Holyoke, with 111 Vietnam veterans being treated there as of the latest report from the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs. The home also served 66 veterans of the Korean War and 66 World War II veterans, according to the report.

All but seven of the home’s veterans were at least 70 years old.

At the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, the number of COVID-19 deaths remained at two on Friday, Sudders said. She and Gov. Charlie Baker have said they do not expect the situation in Chelsea to deteriorate the same way it appears Holyoke has.

Timilty said he supports the decision by Baker to appoint an independent investigator, Mark Pearlstein, to investigate the events at the soldiers home.

He said the committee also needs to know if residents and staff members have enough personal protective equipment, and what is being done for residents who test positive for COVID-19 and to prevent the spread of the virus to other residents and staff. The immediate focus must be to address the needs of residents and staff, he added.

Timilty expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased.

“The deaths of these veterans — heroes one and all, who had served our country so bravely — is just unspeakable. This is a huge tragedy,” Timilty said in a statement.


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