HOLYOKE, Mass. — They call themselves ‘Fund the Holyoke Soldiers Home Now.’ It’s a coalition of families, veterans and prior administrators of the Holyoke Soldiers Home who all believe the state failed the residents of the home when it failed to deliver the funds to build a new facility back in 2013.
Since the coronavirus outbreak began, 76 veterans have died after testing positive for COVID-19 at the Holyoke home. It’s believed to be the site of one of the deadliest outbreaks at a long-term care facility in the country.
Among those pushing for a new facility is Eileen Driscoll, who lost her dad to the outbreak.
Alfred Healy was a veteran of the Korean War, serving from 1950-1952. He died April 10, eight days after testing positive COVID-19. He was 91.
Driscoll believes, had a new home been in place prior to the pandemic, many lives would have been saved.
“Well the way the Soldiers’ Home is set up now, it’s not set up adequately to control infectious disease,” Driscoll told Boston 25 News anchor and investigative reporter Kerry Kavanaugh. “I mean other protocols probably could have been put in place. But, there’s too much crowding. The beds were too close together. And once there were cases, how did they isolate them? Did they isolate them? Had my father been isolated or kept away, this would not have happened, nor would it have happened to these other veterans.”
Driscoll said her dad was strong and never complained but told a National Guard nurse he had never been so sick in his life.
The coalition came together late Tuesday afternoon for a ‘stand out,’ which began at 4 p.m. in Holyoke. They are raising awareness about their push for funding a new facility, and they want the state legislature to approve the money by July 31.
“We want to make sure this doesn’t happen again! The previous plan and funding to change the layout of the soldiers’ home that was done in 2012 would greatly help that cause and is one of the best ways we can honor our loved ones after their passing, as well as serve future veterans,” said Susan Kenney, who is a member of the coalition. “The project was overlooked and passed on for too long. Another ‘study’ will delay this and we want funding now!”
Kenney’s father, 78-year-old Charles Lowell, died after contracting coronavirus at the home. He was an Air Force veteran who served from 1960 to 1965 during the Vietnam War.
The group is also circulating a petition that has more than 1,300 signatures.
A spokesperson for the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services gave the following statement to Boston 25 News:
The Administration is taking immediate steps to improve the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home to support infection control and resident safety now, and has been in discussions with the VA on options for capital support going forward. Long-term solutions must include current needs for infection control, revised VA building standards and codes, and other needs to support safe and quality care for veterans.— EOHHS spokesperson
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