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Head of Holyoke Solders Home Resigns Amid Charges Over Virus Deaths

The leader of a Massachusetts home for aging veterans where nearly 80 people sickened with the coronavirus have died has resigned amid criminal charges over his handling of the pandemic.

Former Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh submitted his resignation Thursday in a letter to the home's Board of Trustees, MassLive.com reported.

Last week, a grand jury indicted Walsh and the home's former medical director, Dr. David Clinton, on charges stemming from their decision in March to combine two dementia units, putting residents who had tested positive for the coronavirus in the same space as those with no symptoms, investigators said.

Walsh was placed on administrative leave last spring and fired by Gov. Charlie Baker in June. Last month, however, a judge ruled that Walsh's firing was improper as it had to be done by the home's Board of Trustees.

The board had called a special meeting for Monday to discuss personnel issues including the possible removal of staff, raising the likelihood that Walsh might be fired a second time.

Walsh could face prison time if convicted of causing or permitting serious bodily harm of an elder, according to Attorney General Maura Healey's office, who said the case is believed to be the first in the nation brought against nursing home officials for actions during the pandemic.

Since March 1, 76 veterans who contracted the coronavirus at the home have died, officials said.

Walsh has defended his response, saying state officials initially refused in March to send National Guard aid even as the home was dealing with dire staffing shortages. A message left with his attorney Friday was not immediately returned.

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