'Staff Were Left On Their Own': Panel Continues Probe Into Holyoke Soldiers' Home COVID-19 Outbreak
A Massachusetts legislative oversight committee met Thursday as it looks into the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. One main topic was whether staffing contributed to the deaths of at least 76 veterans at the state-run facility.
Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders told the committee a staffing study had already been underway at the Soldiers' Home, prompted by earlier management-staff issues.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell of Methuen, who co-chairs the committee, asked Sudders if the staffing challenges contributed to the outbreak.
"I think more fundamentally — more fundamental — is that there wasn't the internal processes — clinical, management and operations — to withstand a pandemic," Sudders said.
Sudders also told lawmakers that many other nursing homes in Massachusetts, including the other state-run soldiers' home in Chelsea, faced pandemic threats — but were not hit as hard because "their internal structures didn't collapse."
"What happened at Holyoke, from my read of everything, was a complete collapse because it didn't exist," Sudders told the committee. "So staff were left on their own to come up with responses. We left staff on the front lines without the clinical and management oversight and support to manage through a pandemic."
Sudders also told lawmakers the Holyoke Soldiers' Home needs to be replaced. She outlined potential steps to do so.
Lawmakers are waiting to enact reforms sought by Gov. Charlie Baker until after the panel completes its investigation, which is one of several independent probes into the outbreak.
This report includes information from State House News Service.