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Holyoke Soldiers' Home future still being reviewed on Veterans' Day

The Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Massachusetts.
Jesse Costa
Soldiers Home in Holyoke

On Veterans’ Day, residents of the Soldiers Home in Holyoke are living under the specter of a tragedy near the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in early 2020. The deaths of 77 residents of the long-term care facility for veterans have been connected to COVID-19.A year and a half later, new administrators are managing the Soldiers Home, which has undergone numerous reforms. The home in Holyoke and another one in Chelsea are the subject of numerous proposals for more serious overhauls in the wake of the deaths last year.

Massachusetts lawmakers are reviewing numerous proposals following a harsh report released by a special legislative committee in May. The committee called the deaths a “preventable tragedy.” It blamed them on poor medical decisions, an absence of leadership and an abdication of responsibility by top administrators. The home’s superintendent at the time, Bennett Walsh, had no medical or nursing home management experience. The committee concluded there was a complete breakdown in communication between Walsh and Massachusetts Secretaries of Veterans’ Affairs and Health and Human Services.

State lawmakers are questioning whether the board of trustees for the Holyoke Soldiers Home should be eliminated. But that concerns an influential western Massachusetts lawmaker.

“There really should be an element of local control,” State Senator John Velis of Westfield, who co-chairs the legislature’s Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs told And Another Thing.