103 veterans have died between 2 residential and long-term care facilities in Massachusetts
(CNN) — Between two Massachusetts residential and long-term care facilities, 103 veterans have died — 85 of whom tested positive for coronavirus.
As of Monday, Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea lost 26 veteran residents, with 19 testing positive for the virus. Holyoke Soldier’s Home, which is currently under federal investigation, has lost 77 veteran residents. Of those, 66 tested positive for Covid-19.
Another 83 veterans and 81 employees of Holyoke and 28 residents and 53 staff at the Chelsea facility have tested positive.
Gov. Charlie Baker announced an additional $130 million in funding for nursing homes and long-term care facilities in the state to provide additional staff, personal protective equipment and cleaning and disinfecting of the facilities. It will also be mandatory for residents and staff to be tested and facilities will be audited to make sure they are meeting infection control requirements.
“Clearly protecting our most vulnerable citizens in nursing homes, rest homes and assisted living residence has emerged as one of the greatest challenges we face in our fight against Covid-19,” Baker said.
The outbreak at Holyoke Soldiers’ home could be due in part of to systemic issues that have plagued the facility for years, according to staff and union accounts. Now, it is under a federal investigation.
The US attorney’s office in Massachusetts announced an investigation with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division earlier this month into “whether the Soldiers’ Home violated the rights of residents by failing to provide them adequate medical care generally, and during, the coronavirus pandemic.”
The Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which runs the facility, told CNN at the time that when the investigation was announced an on-site team has “assertively responded to the emergency situation and are continually making necessary changes on the ground to protect resident safety.”
“It is imperative that the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home provide a safe environment for the veteran residents, and the dedicated staff who serve them,” the statement reads in part.
Staff told CNN they struggled with inadequate personal protective equipment, chronic understaffing and housing practices that put veterans who tested positive for the virus in close quarters with those who had not.
Cory Bombredi, an internal organizer for Service Employees International Union Local 888, which represents 270 members of the home’s staff, previously expressed optimism about the new investigation.
“We find the news promising and welcome additional investigations into the events that led to the deaths of our veterans and the spread of Covid-19 to our members,” Bombredi told CNN. “These veterans have made the ultimate sacrifice to their country. I believe what has happened in Holyoke has raised the alarm for every health care facility in US, I believe they have saved countless lives. These men are true heroes.”