HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home has been taking care of veterans for nearly 70 years but as we know, it has been devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Holyoke Soldiers’ Home was established in 1952 with a mission to provide “Care with Honor and Dignity” in the best possible health care environment for eligible veterans who reside in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Seven years after the end of World War, the need for another veterans care center was paramount. The only state facility designated for the task was the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea, which had been set up in 1882, and it was overflowing with wounded veterans requiring long-term care.
According to their website, the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home provides long-term care and outpatient medical services, as well as dental and social services, and programming and events for veterans.
It is operated by the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services and is inspected annually by both the state and the United States Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
But in March and April, at least 74 veteran-30 percent of the home’s residents- died of Covid-19 in one of the deadliest outbreaks at a long-term care facility in the country. Union officials and veterans’ advocates say staffing shortages helped fuel the devastating spread of the virus through the home
They also question the apparent lack of foresight of the home’s administration. On May 6, the Massachusetts Air National Guard F-15′ paid tribute to doctors, nurses, first responders and residents with a special fly over salute.
In response to the outbreak, the Soldiers’ Home will operate under new management and with fewer residents.
The state is implementing a $2 million overhaul to redesign its floors with infection control measures reducing the number of beds to 160 from the original 247, in compliance with social distancing guidelines.