'A Lot To Untangle' As 3rd Investigation Into Holyoke Soldiers' Home Begins
On Friday, U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling announced his office, along with the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, will be investigating whether veterans at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home have been receiving proper care.
The purpose of the investigation will be to examine whether the state-run Soldiers’ Home violated the rights of residents by failing to provide them adequate medical care generally, and during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will aggressively investigate recent events at the Home and, as needed, require the Commonwealth to adopt reforms to ensure patient safety in the future," Lelling said in a statement. "We will get to the bottom of what happened here.”
As the number of veterans at the Soldiers' Home who have died while testing positive for COVID-19 continues to climb this week, state Attorney General Maura Healey announced her own probe into the situation. Last week, Governor Charlie Baker launched a separate investigation.
Panelist Matt Szafranksi said there's "a lot to untangle here."
"Now we have [Superintendent] Bennett Walsh claiming that people above him knew what was going on. They seemed to suggest that they didn't," Szafranski said. "I just hope that this investigation is as broad as it possibly can be, because there's a lot of threads to it that may go back years — well before this outbreak began."
Walsh, who has been placed on administrative leave, this week pushed back against Baker's claim that notification policies were not followed as the outbreak began.
"We provided updates on a daily basis, sometimes multiple times a day," Walsh said in a statement Thursday.
Panelist Elizabeth Román said if Walsh's claims are true — and he can prove them, "then what more is he supposed to do? Where is then the chain of command failing that this many people need to be contacted before the governor knows what's going on?"
Also this week, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders dropped out of the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, but he decided to remain on the ballot to help push for certain progressive ideas. In Connecticut, where the primaries have already been pushed to June due to the pandemic, Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has said there's no longer a justification to have any primaries, given concerns over COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Springfield City Council this week held its first meeting using video conferencing. Massachusetts has relaxed open meeting laws during the pandemic to allow cities and towns to meet remotely.
And some small business owners in the region are trying to find creative ways to keep their doors open, and attract customers as best they can.
- Elizabeth Román, reporter/editor, Springfield Republican and El Pueblo Latino
- Matt Szafranski, editor, Western Mass Politics & Insight