HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Friday, Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey announced 20 counts of criminal charges against former leaders of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.
The state believes this is the first criminal case in the country brought against those involved in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In April, State Attorney General Maura Healey opened an investigation to determine whether the actions taken at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home during the COVID-19 pandemic amounted to law violations and on Friday Healey announced criminal charges.
The state is each charging former Superintendent Bennett Walsh and Medical Director David Clinton with five counts of serious bodily injury and five counts of criminal neglect of an elder.
“These charges stem from their alleged role in the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home,” Healey said in a conference on Friday.
Healey said Walsh and Clinton are responsible for a decision on March 27 that lead to a deadly result.
“The decision to consolidate two dementia units into one. Which meant that symptomatic and COVID positive residents were placed within feet of asymptomatic residents exposing those residents further to the virus,” Healey continued.
The decision combined 42 veterans, some COVID-19 positive and others asymptomatic, into units that accommodates 25.
“And because there wasn’t enough space in these overcrowded rooms for all the veterans the home placed nine beds in a dining room,” Healey explained.
The home placed nine residents in the dining room. But the charges are based on five veterans who were moved into the dining room of the consolidated unit. Three of them contracted COVID-19 and one of them died from the virus.
“The beds of these veterans in the dining room were just a few feet apart from each other and next to the room where confirmed positive residents were located. And residents in the unit were mingling together regardless of their COVID-19 status,” Healey said.
The state alleges that this circumstance never should have happened and put veterans at a greater risk of death. The attorney general’s office interviewed more than 90 family members for their investigation.
The criminal neglect charge carries a term of up to three years and the serious bodily injury charge carries up to 10 years for each count. If convicted, Walsh and Clinton could face up to 65 years in prison. Their arraignment date has not yet been set but they will both be arraigned in Hampden County Superior Court.