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'We Will Never Be The Same': Holyoke Soldiers' Home Staff Testify To Oversight Committee

Workers at a Massachusetts home for sick veterans where 76 residents who contracted the coronavirus died told lawmakers that the facility wasn’t adequately staffed, that they weren’t given enough protective equipment, and that they were bullied by management during the outbreak.

Current and former staffers at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke told the Joint Special Legislative Oversight Committee on Tuesday that the ordeal left them depressed and contemplating retirement.

“They have broken many of us,” nurse Francine Kapinos said.

She said the home failed to test hospice patients, withheld protective equipment and shuffled patients and staff around the home at will.

“The staff who went through this are broken. We will never be the same,” said nurse Theresa King, who said she now has trouble sleeping and concentrating.

Nurse Joseph Ramirez, who fell ill with COVID-19 himself, described administrators as “bullies” who never explained the reasoning behind what an independent investigator called the “devastating” decision to combine two locked dementia units.

The outbreak at the facility was one of the deadliest at a long-term care facility in the nation. The home’s former superintendent and chief medical officer face criminal neglect charges.

The 17-member oversight committee is hearing testimony to understand the outbreak and recommend reforms.

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