BOSTON (CBS) – The veterans who died of COVID-19 at the Soldiers Home in Holyoke are military heroes, including Michelle Rousseau’s grandfather. “I don’t think we received an apology this,” she told WBZ-TV. “The administration doesn’t think they did anything wrong.”
The I-Team has learned that some responsibility may rest with the state of Massachusetts’ failure to implement what is called The HOME Act.
State Rep. John Velis wants to know why. “The legislation was passed for a reason,” Velis said. “It’s something that should have been done.”
Based on the recommendations in the 2016 Massachusetts Veterans Commission report, The HOME Act signed by Governor Charlie Baker established an office of state veterans homes and housing and required an executive director with a minimum of five years of experience in health care to oversee the Chelsea and Holyoke homes. That job was never filled.
The LinkedIn online profiles of the Chelsea and Holyoke superintendents do not show that they have any experience in health care and it appears no one in their direct chain of command above them had any either.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey questions whether the superintendents had the competency to run these facilities.
“From my perspective these are health care facilities. They are health care facilities because you are dealing with an aging demographic,” Healey said. “We need to make sure we have right personnel in place. This is an opportunity to get answers about what happened in this home and other homes where we believe there may be wrongdoing or illegal conduct.”
The attorney general’s office is conducting one of three investigations into what happened at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home where there have been 74 deaths from coronavirus. Dozens of others have tested positive. Twenty-nine residents at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home have died from the virus.
Deb Olson of the Massachusetts Disabled American Veterans tells the I-Team she is outraged that the proper precautions weren’t taken.
“Could these deaths have been prevented? I think a lot of them could have been,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services said, “The circumstances that led to the heartbreaking situation at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home – including management and oversight of the facility – are the subject of a full and impartial investigation ordered by the Governor, led by Attorney Mark Pearlstein.”