Staff study was underway before “complete collapse” at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home

Hampden County

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BOSTON (SHNS) –  Several staffing issues were present in the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home before a deadly COVID-19 outbreak ravaged its residents, but Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders believes the lack of preparation and support structures was the driving force behind the crisis.

A staffing study had been underway examining the workforce at the facility before the outbreak, prompted by “management-labor issues” and concerns such as the fact that there was no permanent staffing schedule in place, Sudders said.

Asked by lawmakers Thursday if staffing deficiencies contributed to the outbreak that led to the deaths of at least 76 veterans, Sudders replied that many other nursing homes in Massachusetts — including the other state-run soldiers’ home in Chelsea — faced pandemic threats but were not hit as hard because “their internal structures didn’t collapse.”

“What happened at Holyoke, from my read of everything, was a complete collapse because it didn’t exist,” Sudders told a legislative committee investigating the Holyoke tragedy. “So staff were left on their own to come up with responses. We left staff on the front lines without the clinical and management oversight and support to manage through a pandemic.”

The committee plans to hear testimony from and pose questions to state officials and higher-ups at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home over the course of a Thursday afternoon hearing about the role of labor problems in the outbreak.

Lawmakers are waiting to enact reforms sought by Gov. Charlie Baker until after the panel completes its investigation, which is one of several independent probes into the outbreak.

This is a developing story.

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