State lawmakers to hear from Soldiers’ Home families

  • Wreaths, signs and flags are part of a memorial at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, Tuesday, May 12, 2020. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

State House News Service
Published: 10/20/2020 4:16:08 AM

Families of the dozens of Soldiers’ Home residents who died this spring as COVID-19 swept through the long-term care facility in Holyoke will have two chances this week to share their stories publicly.

A special committee on legislative leaders created to investigate the deadly outbreak plans to host hearings on Tuesday and Thursday, where they will invite surviving family members or health care proxies to testify – likely for the first time in public view – about what they experienced.

At least 76 residents of the veterans’ home died due to COVID-19, one of the deadliest single outbreaks in the nation.

The crisis prompted creation of a legislative oversight committee, helmed by Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee Chairs Rep. Linda Dean Campbell and Sen. Walter Timilty. Tuesday’s 11 a.m. hearing at Holyoke Community College will be the oversight committee’s first public event.

Last month, Attorney General Maura Healey announced that the home’s superintendent, Bennett Walsh, and former medical director, David Clinton, will face criminal charges for allegedly exacerbating the deadly outbreak by combining care units and placing patients in close quarters where transmission could occur more easily.

Gov. Charlie Baker ordered an independent investigation by former U.S. Attorney Mark Pearlstein, who concluded that decisions by Walsh and other officials contributed to the scale of the crisis. U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling is also conducting his own probe.

Both the committee’s Tuesday hearing and Thursday hearing will be livestreamed on the Legislature’s website. Those who wish to testify can fill out a Google form on the event pages.

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