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Holyoke Soldiers' Home Workers Sue For Emotional Injuries

The Holyoke Soldiers' Home.
Mike Plaisance
The Republican / masslive.com
The Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

A class action civil rights lawsuit has been filed in federal court in Springfield against five former administrators at the state-funded Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

Employees who cared for veterans during the pandemic are seeking accountability and damages for emotional injuries.

The lawsuit alleges managers required staff to work under unsafe and inhumane conditions early in the Covid-19 pandemic. It claims former managers of the Soldiers' Home "took virtually no steps to reduce the risks" of infection at the facility and hid masks, gowns and gloves, claiming there was a shortage.

The complaint alleges managers reprimanded staff who wore protective gear saying it would alarm the veterans.

At least 77 veterans died there of the virus.

Lead plaintiff Kwesi Ablordeppey is a CNA who still works at the facility. He said every time he goes to work he remembers seeing the remains of veterans in refrigerated trucks.

“When you walk into the door, you are getting angry. Why? Because some of the veterans --I know them, I chat with them, I joke with them --- and to put those veterans into a body bag and put them in the refrigerator – it’s something I would never forget,” Ablordeppey said. “Never, Never.”

Leonard Kesten, the plaintiff's attorney, said there's been virtually no accountability and the employees are still suffering. 

"You ended up with bodies in the hallways, veterans inevitably dying, being crowded together in horrible conditions," said Kesten. "And these employees, these are not just employees. These are people that really care about the veterans that they take care of -- to have to watch this."

Kesten said the case does not fall under workers compensation law which bars employees from suing employers. The lawsuit alleges civil rights violations under the 14th amendment.

A state spokesperson said the administration doesn't comment on pending litigation.

Nancy Eve Cohen is a senior reporter focusing on Berkshire County. Earlier in her career she was NPR’s Midwest editor in Washington, D.C., managing editor of the Northeast Environmental Hub and recorded sound for TV networks on global assignments, including the war in Sarajevo and an interview with Fidel Castro.
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