Families of Soldiers’ Home veterans concerned over COVID-19 crisis

Hampden County

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – As the numbers of veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home infected with COVID-19 continues to rise, and we hear of more deaths, family members of residents are concerned.

Many contacted 22News to express their frustration with getting information about their relatives.

“It’s awful they don’t even answer the phone over there. We’re trying to see if we can get my father out of there,” a daughter of a veteran at the facility told 22News.

The daughter’s father is a 99-year-old veteran living in the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. He’s one of the 59 residents who tested positive for COVID-19 at the home.

21 deaths at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home; 59 residents positive for COVID-19

“We’re trying to get updates and right now they’re not even answering phones over there. And then the family helpline, when you call it. It says sorry the mailbox is full,” she continued.

The Health and Human Services department said all positive veterans are being isolated, she told 22News another resident was added to her father’s room.

22News reached out to the department to ask if the isolation included putting confirmed cases in the same room, they have yet to respond.

A man, who’s 77-year-old father and U.S. Airforce veteran is still sharing a room with two other residents. He spoke with 22News about his family’s efforts to reach the Soldiers’ Home for updates.

“Repeated attempts to call a hotline that families can use to get through to get information,” he said. “She has tried on successive occasions, at least three occasions in the last 36 hours and the hotline number has all gone to voicemail.”

On April 1, the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that all residents had been tested and results would come in 24 hours. As of April 4, families were just finding out their relatives results.

“There’s so many family members that have no clue what’s happening inside the building,” said another daughter of a Soldiers’ Home veteran. “I understand that there’s a lot going on up there, these veterans, they need the help. The families need the help to communicate.”

One family of a deceased veteran, told 22News their father died on March 27 and they still haven’t received the results of his COVID-19 test. The state says out of the 21 veterans who have died recently at the home, there are still 3 tests pending. The family still hasn’t been told if their father is one of those tests.

Those who still have a loved one at the home are starting to think in grave terms.

“If he does end up succumbing to this. The last thing I ever want is my dad to go alone. He should have someone with him,” one daughter said of her father.

The state has opened an investigation into what went wrong at the facility that’s lead to so many cases and deaths.

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