BOSTON (CBS) — Gov. Charlie Baker has put out a list of reforms he wants to make to the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home. On Wednesday an independent investigation revealed a huge list of problems in the home, which helped the coronavirus spread and kill at least 76 veterans there.
Baker’s plan includes hiring someone with health care experience to oversee both of the state’s soldiers homes, making changes to the work schedule to ensure the home is properly staffed, and implementing an electronic records system.
Kwesi Ablordeppey is a nursing assistant who was written up for wearing PPE at the beginning of the pandemic. He was interviewed by investigators and told them the facility needs more help.
“All we are looking for is patient safety,” Ablordeppey said. “You don’t go to war with generals – you need people on the ground who can do the job. Let’s have more CNAs and LPNs on the ground to take care of these wonderful veterans who have served this country.”
The administration is also allocating $6 million to renovate rooms to address infection control issues.
Cory Bombredi with SEIU Local 88 said the reforms are a good start. “We need more mental health services for our workers in the home,” Bombredi said. “Keep in mind most of these workers have seen more deaths than a combat veteran.”
The state is moving to end the employment of Superintendent Bennett Walsh, who the report found was “not qualified to manage a long-term care facility.”
According to the report, the “most substantial” error was a decision on March 27 to move all veterans from one of the two locked dementia units into the other locked unit, where they would be crowded with the veterans already living there.
Staff called the move “total pandemonium,” “when hell broke loose,” and “a nightmare.”