MNA says Holyoke Soldiers’ Home admin should have known about low staff levels

Coronavirus Local Impact

HOLYOKE, MASS. (WWLP) – Seventy-six veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home died after testing positive for the coronavirus. A new report looks at how this tragedy could have happened and it found that staffing levels were an issue.

“This was a very critical, serious situation that was totally mishandled from beginning to end,” Andrea Fox of the Massachusetts Nurses Association said.

The MNA told 22News they have repeatedly expressed concerns about staffing levels at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. Staff alerted the administration to these issues since at least 2011, according to an independent report that outlined errors in the way the leadership team at the facility handled one of the worst coronavirus outbreaks in the nation.

Fox said Superintendent Bennett Walsh should have known about the staffing issues.

“If he had just had communications and conversations with his staff, then he certainly would have known that, as well as just listening to us talk about them in meetings.”

At least 80 employees also tested positive for COVID-19 during the outbreak. The report finds this was likely because the facility’s administration failed to provide PPE and allegedly even stopped staff from using it. A staff member interviewed for the report said that they were told they were causing “hysteria” by wearing PPE.

“I think the hysteria was created by the lack of transparency and communication by the administration, and their response of not giving out PPE in a timely way,” Fox said.

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

Four more investigations into the outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home are still ongoing.

Sen. John Velis: I had no involvement in hiring of Holyoke Soldiers’ Home superintendent

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