Officials want Baker to answer for Holyoke Home failures

Hampden County

Condition of existing facility (Screenshot from Rapid Planning Report on Mass.gov)

BOSTON (SHNS) – Gov. Charlie Baker and Secretary Marylou Sudders will “have to answer for” the new questions raised about their oversight of former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh, Attorney General Maura Healey said Tuesday, stopping short of calling for the governor to testify before the Legislature.

Healey called last week’s extensive investigation published by the Boston Globe into the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the soldiers’ home in early 2020 “eye opening and heart wrenching.” “It sheds even more light on the systemic failures by the Baker administration over many years that caused widespread problems at this facility. That includes hiring Bennett Walsh to run the home, even though he had absolutely no health care experience and was not a licensed administrator,” Healey said during an interview on GBH’s “Boston Public Radio.”

Healey, a potential Democratic contender for governor in 2022, said she was limited in how much she could say because she has criminally charged Walsh and the home’s former medical director for the roles they played in the outbreak. But she said the Globe report that looked at how much Baker and Sudders knew about Walsh’s management problems before the outbreak “is at odds” with what they have said publicly. “I think that they’re going to have to answer for that, about their involvement, about their positions,” Healey said.

A special legislative committee on Monday released its report into the outbreak that blamed the Baker administration for failing to address poor leadership at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. Some lawmakers have said Baker should be called to testify about how much he knew about Walsh’s failings as a manager before the pandemic and why he didn’t do more to correct the situation.

Healey said her focus was on its prosecution of Walsh. Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, co-chair of the Special Joint Oversight Committee on the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke COVID-19 Outbreak, told the News Service on Tuesday that “we definitely need to hear from the governor and Secretary Sudders in a more comprehensive way.” She said the question of whether to call Baker to testify is one that “will be discussed with my colleagues.” 

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