Death Toll, Questions Mount at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Amid COVID-19 Outbreak

HOLYOKE — The death toll at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home is up to 13 veteran residents in the past week, at least six from COVID-19, while another 10 residents have tested positive for coronavirus, and 25 more are waiting for test results.

Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse called the situation at the Soldiers’ Home “unacceptable” and “a disservice to everyone who lives there.” 

In a statement, he noted that, “while I am grateful that the state is now taking swift action to ensure residents and staff get necessary care and treatment, I am grief-stricken for those we have already lost, and my heart goes out to their families and friends.”

Meanwhile U.S. Rep. Richard Neal is calling for accountability for what happened, noting that he has spoken to Massachusetts Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders and the Massachusetts Nurses Assoc. to share his concerns about the conditions at the home and to learn more about their plans to move forward.

“I am heartbroken by the sudden loss of life,” Neal said when the first 11 deaths were reported earlier this week. “While the Commonwealth of Massachusetts manages the healthcare facility, I have always worked hard to secure federal assistance for the home because of the importance of their mission. The residents of the Soldiers’ Home have served their country with honor and distinction, and their health and safety, along with that of the staff, has always been top priority. This is even more personal to me because I have an uncle who is a full-time resident there. I was shocked to learn of these deaths.”

Bennett Walsh, the home’s superintendent, has been placed on leave, and Val Liptak, CEO of Western Massachusetts Hospital, has assumed responsibility for the administration of the facility. The state also assembled an on-site clinical command team comprised of medical, epidemiological, and operational experts responsible for rapid response to the outbreak.

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