I-Team: Federal inspections at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home show years of violations

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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – The 22News I-Team has obtained copies of years worth of inspections that were done at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. The inspections expose multiple violations at the facility that potentially put residents at risk.

The state sent the 22News I-Team copies of federal inspections that were done by the Veterans Administration at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home from January 2014 to September 2020. Some of the findings show that the home was vulnerable to an outbreak, like the one earlier this year that killed 76 veterans.

In 2015, the VA found that the facility failed to ensure that residents were protected from possible attacks by other residents. The report cites several instances of both verbal and physical abuse by one resident on another.

The inspections also show that the rooms were undersized. In a 2016 VA report, it states there was as little as 13 inches of space between beds in a room shared by three veterans, and there was no clear path for them to easily get out of the room.

This room size would later affect the staff’s ability to separate veterans when the COVID-19 outbreak began at the facility.

Paul Barabani was the Superintendent at the time of the 2016 inspection. He previously told the I-Team that he asked the state multiple times for some help. He said he even gave the state a plan that he developed for a new building that would allow for more room, but it was never discussed further.

As for former superintendent Bennett Walsh, he and the former Medical Director David Clinton, are facing charges of criminal neglect for their alleged role in the deadly covid-19 outbreak at the facility. They are scheduled to be arraigned in Hampden Superior Court on November 5th.

The 22News I-Team will continue to dig through the hundreds of documents and provide updates as they become available.

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