They Survived the Worst Battles of World War II. And Died of the Virus.Breaking News
tags: veterans, austerity, World War 2, COVID-19
The question of what went wrong at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home will be with Massachusetts for a long time.
With scarce protective gear and a shortage of staff, the facility’s administrators combined wards of infected and uninfected men, and the virus spread quickly through a fragile population.
Of the 210 veterans who were living in the facility in late March, 89 are now dead, 74 having tested positive for the virus. Almost three-quarters of the veterans inside were infected. It is one of the highest death tolls of any end-of-life facility in the country.
Multiple investigations have been opened, several of which seek to determine whether state officials should be charged with negligence under civil or criminal law. The facility’s superintendent, Bennett Walsh, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel with no nursing home experience, was placed on administrative leave on March 30.
But many in the state are revisiting decisions made since 2015, when a moderate, technocratic Republican governor, Charlie Baker, was elected on a promise to rein in spending.
The facility’s budget increased by 14 percent over the last five years, according to a spokesman for the state’s health department. Even so, there were persistent shortfalls in staffing, and the local unions complained that workers were frequently pressured to stay for unplanned double shifts. The facility’s previous superintendent stepped down in 2015, declaring that the home could not safely care for the population on the existing budget.
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