Workers Tell Lawmakers of Dysfunction at Holyoke Soldiers' Home

The home had one of the deadliest outbreaks in the nation

Soldiers' Home in Holyoke where at least 76 elderly veterans have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, pictured on June 24, 2020 in Holyoke, MA.
Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Workers at a Massachusetts home for sick veterans where 76 residents who contracted the coronavirus died told lawmakers that the facility wasn't adequately staffed, they weren't given enough protective equipment, and they were bullied by management during the outbreak.

Current and former staffers at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke told the Joint Special Legislative Oversight Committee on Tuesday that the ordeal left them depressed and contemplating retirement.

“They have broken many of us,'' nurse Francine Kapinos said.

She said the home failed to test hospice patients, withheld protective equipment and shuffled patients and staff around the home at will.

“The staff who went through this are broken. We will never be the same,'' said nurse Theresa King, who said she now has trouble sleeping and concentrating.

Emotions ran high as family members took the stand speaking to a special committee investigating one of the deadliest COVID-19 outbreaks in the state.

Nurse Joseph Ramirez, who fell ill with COVID-19 himself, described administrators as “bullies'' who never explained the reasoning behind what an independent investigator called the “devastating'' decision to combine two locked dementia units.

The outbreak at the facility was one of the deadliest at a long-term care facility in the nation. The home's former superintendent and chief medical officer face criminal neglect charges.

The 17-member oversight committee is hearing testimony to understand the outbreak and recommend reforms.

A lawsuit has been filed connected to the COVID deaths of residents of a Holyoke veterans' home.
Copyright AP - Associated Press
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