Families who lost loved ones during the coronavirus outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home testified before state lawmakers Tuesday.
The beleaguered veterans' care center has been the subject of several major investigations after the site became of one of the nation’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks at a long-term care facility. At least 76 veterans living at the home who tested positive for the virus have died since the beginning of March.
Family members and health care proxies shared their stories as part of an investigation being conducted by a 17-person special committee of legislators.
"Nobody should have to go through this," said Susan Kenney, whose father died at the home. "We had no reason to think my father wouldn't make it to his next birthday."
"Someone needs to be held responsible for it, and it needs to not happen again," an emotional Kenney told the committee.
Meanwhile, the facility is suspending visits until further notice after one of its residents tested positive again for coronavirus.
The legislative probe into the deadly outbreak is in addition to an investigation commissioned by Gov. Charlie Baker, which found that its leadership team made "substantial errors" in their response in June, and another by Attorney General Maura Healey, which resulted in criminal charges against two former officials last month. The matter is also under federal scrutiny by U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.
The committee heard house of testimony on Tuesday on what led up to the incident.
"It was just a perfect storm, with a skeleton crew, a less than clean environment," said Laurie Mandeville Beaudette, whose father died at the home.
Three clinically recovered veterans showed COVID-like symptoms on Sunday, according to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services. All three were tested and only one came back positive. That veteran has since re-tested negative.
All residents and staff at the home are being re-tested for COVID-19. Residents, family members and staff have all been notified of the situation, an EOHHS spokesperson said.
The Holyoke Soldiers Home Coalition organized a stand-out in front of Holyoke Community College at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, which includes relatives of current soldiers home residents.
The group is calling for more funding, staff and an upgraded facility as well as a push for state leaders to establish an advisory council to the board of trustees that would represent the interests of residents and their relatives.
Another hearing is scheduled for Thursday.