I-Team: Families of victims of Holyoke Soldiers’ Home outbreak testify before legislative committee

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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – There are multiple state and federal investigations into the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home happening now.

A joint legislative commission has been created to investigate the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home that killed 76 veterans after they contracted the virus. Some of the members include local State Senators James Welch and John Velis and Representative Joe Wagner.

The commission met Tuesday for the first time to hear the heartbreaking stories from family members who lost loved ones during the outbreak.

Susan Kenney’s father, Charles Lowell, died in April after becoming infected with COVID 19.

“It’s just hard because you have to relive it all. It needs to get out there. We need to keep doing it. My dad would want me to do it. They need to be answered, it has to be addressed. It can’t happen again. It shouldn’t happen again. It shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

Susan Kenney

Laurie Mandeville Beaudette also testified. She said back in April, she learned that her father, James had tested positive after calling the nurses station and being told he was in a negative pressure room on a COVID-positive floor. She wore his ashes around her neck as she testified.

“The hardest thing I ever had to tell him was that it was okay to let go. I didn’t want him holding on just for me. It would be too selfish. It was awful,” said Laurie.

The Home’s Former Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former medical director Dr. David Clinton have been charged with criminal neglect for their alleged parts in worsening the COVID-19 crisis at the facility, as part of another investigation by Attorney General Maura Healey. They are expected to be in court on November 5th.

Families said Tuesday they believe what happened at the Soldiers’ Home was criminal.

“Nobody should have had to go through this,” Kenney said. “We had no reason to think my father wouldn’t make it to his next birthday.”

Walsh has said that he took the necessary steps to inform the state about that COVID-19 outbreak inside the facility.

The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Coalition is now fighting for new facility to be built so something like this doesn’t happen again.

“The veterans need to be in rooms that are private with private bathrooms,” said Coalition member Cheryl Turgeon. “They need social engagement following social distancing rules, which requires a new home. They are unable to do that now, basically.”

There will be another meeting that will allow families to testify before the legislative commission on Thursday, October 22 at noon. You can sign up to speak at it here.

TIMELINE: Indictments for former leaders at Soldiers’ Home In Holyoke

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