Soldiers’ Home deaths forcing families to re-evaluate funeral plans for loved ones at facility

Hampden County

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The latest number of veteran deaths at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke is now at 83 with one added death on Thursday.

Seventy-one of those deceased have tested positive for COVID-19. The following numbers were released by the Office of Health and Human Services on Thursday:

  • 79 veteran residents have tested positive
  • 57 veteran residents have tested negative
  • 7 veteran residents have pending tests
  • Of all residents: 
    • 106 residents are onsite
    • 37 residents are offsite
  • 31 residents are at a dedicated skilled nursing unit at Holyoke Medical Center
  • 6 residents are receiving acute care offsite
  • 83 veteran resident deaths (71 positive, 11 negative, 1 unknown)

The number of employees who have tested positive for the virus remains at 81. The Department of Veterans Affairs says on their website that to ensure social distancing, family members are being asked to view the burial from their cars or roads near their cars.

Frank O’Brian, president and owner of Toomey-O’Brien Funeral Home says veterans’ funerals are looking a little different these days.

“The veteran’s cemetery is having no services right now. So we had a family that wanted to escort their loved one to the cemetery but they weren’t even allowed in the cemetery. At this point, people are you know having the burials and they’re going to be having celebration of life ceremonies later on.”

Frank O’Brian, President and Owner of Toomey-O’Brien Funeral Home

Current Soldiers’ Home residents are both onsite at the home as well as at Holyoke Medical Center.

The Soliders’ Home has added eight new PPE coaches to their staff to ensure staff are compliant with proper use sot hate everyone stays safe.

“My administration will never waiver in its relentless commitment to America’s seniors,” said President Trump.

Trump proclaimed the month of may “Older American Month.” During that announcement, he said $81,000 would help increase inspections of nursing facilities, as well as additional shipments of personal protective equipment.

Staff at the Soldiers’ Home told the 22News I-Team they lacked proper PPE in the early weeks of the outbreak and management didn’t properly isolate the first veteran to test positive for Covid-19.

“We owe them a sacred and unbreakable obligation and we will fulfill that obligation with every resource and power that we have. We are working very hard with seniors and we’re working very hard with our nursing homes,” President Trump added.

This week, eight coaches were brought into the Soldiers’ Home to ensure staff are using PPE properly. Dozens of National Guardsmen are on site to help.

But staffers say it’s too little, too late.

One certified nursing assistant who worked at the Soldiers’ Home for nearly 20 years, told the Associated Press, “The truth is, the damage has already been done, all we cal do now is out best to salvage.

Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh said he handled the situation properly, in accordance to state law.

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