Holyoke Soldiers Home

Holyoke Soldiers' Home Employees Allege ‘Criminally Catastrophic Decisions' in COVID Outbreak

Workers have filed a class-action lawsuit against former managers and supervisors of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home, where 84 veterans died and many more were sickened at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Employees at a home for veterans where dozens of people died at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have filed a new class-action lawsuit against the facility.

In the spring of 2020, dozens of veterans died and many more were sickened at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home. It was among the worst outbreaks at a U.S. long-term care facility in the pandemic.

The complaint from employees, filed Thursday in federal court, accuses managers and supervisors of making a series of "criminally catastrophic decisions" in their mishandling of COVID-19 in the facility. More than 80 employees were sickened, the complaint says.

"You would tell them that this person's sick, and they really and truly acted like they didn't care," employee and plaintiff Debra Ragoonanan told NBC10 Boston. "It's just so hurtful and so disappointing to see how they treat these people, and the staff right now."

Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker addresses the COVID-19 report from the Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

The lawsuit states that employees were deprived access to personal protective equipment and that workers who tested positive for COVID-19 were ordered to return to work after a three-day quarantine.

Among those named as defendants in the civil suit are the superintendent of the facility and its medical director during the outbreak, both of whom have faced other lawsuits.

Ragoonanan described the difficulty employees have faced since the deadly outbreak.

"They don't understand what it is we've been through. The PTSD is major, and we've been hiding. For me to come out and tell you that I've contemplated suicide is a lot, because I'm always happy-go-lucky, but after that, it's just too much."

A previous class-action suit from residents and their families ended in a $58 million settlement. Another class-action lawsuit from employees was dismissed by a judge last year on the grounds that the workers failed to show how their constitutional rights were violated.

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