Showing posts with label Holyoke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Holyoke. Show all posts

Friday, March 11, 2022

Mass Senate Passes Oversight Reform for Veterans’ Homes

On Thursday, March 10, 2022, the Massachusetts State Senate passed legislation to increase public oversight over the administration of state-operated veterans’ homes in Holyoke and Chelsea. To improve safety and transparency at the veterans’ homes, the bill would restructure the chain of command to more closely match established administrative practices used in hospitals and other large organizations. This legislation follows continued scrutiny of administrative failures at the veterans’ home in Holyoke, which led to the tragic deaths of 77 veterans during the early days of the pandemic, and builds on recommendations made by the Special Joint Oversight Committee on the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke COVID-19 Outbreak, which investigated.

 

“As the daughter of a veteran, I continue to be heartbroken for the families of those who lost their lives to COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I would like to thank the Special Joint Oversight Committee on the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke COVID-19 Outbreak for their thorough investigation of this tragedy, as well as my colleagues in the Senate who have remained focused on dramatic and drastic governance reform to our veterans’ services to ensure the tragedy that occurred in Holyoke never happens again. The Senate will continue to lead in its efforts to support the brave men and women who have served our country. I want to thank Senator Rush for working for over a decade to confront the issues that affect the treatment of veterans and that impact veterans’ services, as well as Senators Rodrigues and Velis for their partnership in crafting this bill.”

 

“With the passage of this bill, the Senate recognizes the need to prioritize accountability and oversight, establish effective checks and balances, and ensure clear chains of command at our state’s long-term care facilities for veterans in order to prevent the tragedy at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home from ever happening again,” said Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thank you to Senate President Spilka for her leadership, to Senators Rush and Velis for their tireless efforts in shaping this bill, and to my colleagues in the Senate for their continued commitment to supporting our veterans.”

 

"The Soldiers’ Homes have long suffered from gaps in accountability and a confused chain of command, factors which left it unable to deal with a crisis like the one we saw with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said Senator Michael F. Rush (D-Boston), Senate Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs and sponsor of the bill. “The bill passed by the senate today tightens these gaps, enhances the level of oversight by elevating the Secretary of Veterans’ Services to a cabinet level position, and creates a stronger governing structure that supports our veterans and provides high quality care. Thank you to Senate President Spilka, Chairman Rodrigues, and my colleagues in the senate for your continued support of the commonwealth’s veterans

 

“From removing burdensome reporting layers and cleaning up the chain of command, to putting in place important infection control and medical oversight, this legislation builds on a lot of the critical lessons that we learned since the tragic COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home in the spring of 2020,” said Senator John C. Velis (D-Westfield), Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs. “Those lives lost are the reason this legislation is before us today, to do right by them, and to do right by all the Veterans who will call Massachusetts home in the coming years. I want to thank the Senate President, the Chair of Ways & Means, and Senator Rush for their steadfast leadership on these important reforms and all my colleagues for their consistent support of our Commonwealth’s Veterans.”

 

This comprehensive reform bill is designed to increase the safety of residents of veterans’ homes in the Commonwealth. A new, full-time ombudsperson would receive, investigate, and assist in resolving complaints related to the health, wellbeing, and rights of veterans’ homes’ residents and staff. To effectively aid these efforts, a public hotline would be created for residents and staff to direct concerns. The bill would also task the Department of Public Health (DPH) with regularly inspecting the homes; all inspection reports would being made publicly available, excluding identifying information of patients and staff. Veterans' homes would be required to be licensed as long-term care facilities by DPH and adhere to the same standards and regulations.

 

Amendments adopted during floor debate will ensure that all veterans’ homes are licensed as long-term care facilities; employ both an infection control specialist and an emergency preparedness specialist; have adequate infection control programs in place; and establish best practices for treating post-traumatic stress disorder. Other adopted amendments direct the Secretary of Veteran’s Services to conduct an outreach program on the benefits and application process for the veterans’ homes, and require all annual reports from the statewide and regional veterans’ homes advisory councils to be publicly accessible online.

 

State-operated veterans’ homes in Massachusetts are managed by a Superintendent, who is responsible for everyday operation of the homes and for ensuring improvements to quality of care. The Senate’s legislation would give the authority to appoint a superintendent for each of the Veterans’ Homes to the Executive Director of the Office of Veterans’ Homes and Housing (OVHH). Under the legislation, superintendents would be required to fulfill certain criteria, including being a licensed nursing home administrator with experience running a long-term care facility. Priority would also be given to superintendent candidates who are themselves veterans.

 

The Executive Director of OVHH would be appointed by the Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans Services, which would be elevated to a cabinet-level position, appointed by the Governor. The Secretary would be required to promulgate regulations concerning the operations and administration of veterans’ homes. Elevating the Secretary to a cabinet-level position would facilitate more timely attention to all personnel challenges.

In addition to altering the command structure responsible for managing veterans’ homes, the bill would also create a statewide Massachusetts Veterans’ Homes Advisory Council, tasked with recommending policies to the Secretary of Veterans Services, as well as Regional Councils, which would be tasked with representing the interests of the local community, residents, and family members at each veterans’ home. Both the statewide Massachusetts Veterans’ Homes Advisory Council and Regional Councils would report annually to the Secretary and to the Legislature. Together with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, these councils would be empowered to submit nominations for and recommend the removal of superintendents. 

 

Furthermore, the bill would require each home to have a full-time specialist in infection control and emergency preparedness and to adhere to medically-sound guidelines for trauma-informed care, including best practices for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and suicide prevention. Additionally, the homes would be required to maintain organizational plans, updated annually, for normal and emergency operations.

 

The Senate’s bill would remove existing procedural hurdles which make it harder to donate operating supplies, clothing, medical equipment, personal hygiene products, and holiday gifts to veterans’ homes.

 

This legislation would set procedures and guidelines for filling vacant positions at veterans’ homes, including posting job openings in a timely fashion, and ensuring that an employee is available to temporarily be tasked with any unfulfilled emergency duties while the position is vacant. Additionally, annual performance reviews would be mandated for all leadership positions at each home.

 

To facilitate veterans’ access to health care, state-operated veterans’ homes would be required to accept Medicare and Medicaid payments. The bill would also provide mental health resources to employees of state-operated veterans’ homes who worked during the pandemic, and create a commission to rename the Veterans’ Homes in Chelsea and Holyoke after specific Massachusetts veterans.

 

Finally, the Senate adopted an amendment from Senator Velis to establish March 21 as Veterans’ Homes Remembrance Day, to honor the veterans who lost their lives due to the tragic COVID-19 outbreaks at veterans’ homes.

 

As a version of An Act relative to the governance, structure and care of veterans at the commonwealth’s veterans’ homes has previously passed the Massachusetts House of Representatives, a conference committee will be appointed to resolve any differences between the Senate and House versions.   

Senate Legislation link -> https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/S2739

House Legislation link -> https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/H4441

MASS Senate Unveils Oversight Reform for Veterans’ Homes
MASS Senate Unveils Oversight Reform for Veterans’ Homes

Saturday, March 5, 2022

MASS Senate Unveils Oversight Reform for Veterans’ Homes

On Thursday, March 3, 2022, the Massachusetts State Senate unveiled legislation to increase public oversight over the administration of state-operated veterans’ homes in Holyoke and Chelsea. To improve safety and transparency at the veterans’ homes, the bill would restructure the chain of command to more closely match established administrative practices used in hospitals and other large organizations. This legislation follows continued scrutiny of administrative failures at the veterans’ home in Holyoke, which led to the tragic deaths of 77 veterans during the early days of the pandemic, and builds on recommendations made by the Special Joint Oversight Committee on the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke COVID-19 Outbreak, which investigated.
 
“As the daughter of a veteran, I continue to be heartbroken for the families of those who lost their lives to COVID-19 at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “I would like to thank the Special Joint Oversight Committee on the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke COVID-19 Outbreak for their thorough investigation of this tragedy, as well as my colleagues in the Senate who have remained focused on dramatic and drastic governance reform to our veterans’ services to ensure the tragedy that occurred in Holyoke never happens again. The Senate will continue to lead in its efforts to support the brave men and women who have served our country. I want to thank Senator Rush for his careful attention to and leadership on this issue, and Senator Rodrigues and the Veterans Committee for their partnership in crafting this bill.”
 
“This bill will help make sure the tragedy that occurred at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home never happens again by prioritizing accountability and oversight and establishing clear chains of command at our state’s long-term care facilities for veterans,” said State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thank you to Senate President for her leadership and to Senator Rush and the Veterans Committee for their work in shaping this bill and their tireless commitment to supporting veterans. I look forward to a robust debate in the Senate.”
 
“The Soldiers’ Homes have long suffered from gaps in accountability and a confused chain of command, factors which left it unable to deal with a crisis like the one we saw with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Senator Michael F. Rush (D-Boston), Senate Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Veterans and Federal Affairs and sponsor of the bill. “The language the Senate will take up tightens these gaps, enhances the level of oversight by elevating the Secretary of Veterans’ Services to a cabinet level position, and creates a stronger governing structure that supports our veterans and provides high quality care. Thank you to Senate President Spilka, Chairman Rodrigues, and my colleagues in the Senate for your continued support of the commonwealth’s veterans.”
 
This comprehensive reform bill is designed to increase the safety of residents of veterans’ homes in the Commonwealth. A new, full-time ombudsperson would receive, investigate, and assist in resolving complaints related to the health, wellbeing, and rights of veterans’ homes’ residents and staff. To effectively aid these efforts, a public hotline would be created for residents and staff to direct concerns. The bill would also task the Department of Public Health with regularly inspecting the homes, with all inspection reports would being made publicly available.
 
State-operated veterans’ homes in Massachusetts are managed by a superintendent, who is responsible for everyday operation of the homes and for ensuring improvements to quality of care. The Senate’s legislation would give the authority to appoint a superintendent for each of the Veterans’ Homes to the Executive Director of the Office of Veterans’ Homes and Housing (OVHH). Under the legislation, superintendents would be required to fulfill certain criteria, including being a licensed nursing home administrator with experience running a long-term care facility. Priority would also be given to superintendent candidates who are themselves veterans.
 
The Executive Director of OVHH would be appointed by the Massachusetts Secretary of Veterans Services, which would be elevated to a cabinet-level position, appointed by the governor. The Secretary would be required to promulgate regulations concerning the operations and administration of veterans’ homes. Elevating the Secretary to a cabinet-level position would facilitate more timely attention to all personnel challenges.
 
In addition to altering the command structure responsible for managing veterans’ homes, the bill would also create a statewide Massachusetts Veterans’ Homes Advisory Council, tasked with recommending policies to the Secretary of Veterans Services, as well as Regional Councils, which would be tasked with representing the interests of the local community, residents, and family members at each veterans’ home. Both the statewide Massachusetts Veterans’ Homes Advisory Council and Regional Councils would report annually to the Secretary and to the Legislature. Together with the Secretary of Health and Human Services, these councils would be empowered to submit nominations for and recommend the removal of superintendents. 
 
Furthermore, the bill would require each home to have a full-time specialist in infection control and emergency preparedness and to adhere to medically-sound guidelines for trauma-informed care.  Additionally, the homes would be required to maintain organizational plans, updated annually, for normal operations as well as emergency operations.
 
This legislation would set procedures and guidelines for filling vacant positions at veterans’ homes, including posting job openings in a timely fashion and ensuring that an employee is available to temporarily be tasked with any unfulfilled emergency duties while the position is vacant. Additionally, annual performance reviews would be mandated for all leadership positions at each home.
 
To facilitate veterans’ access to health care, state-operated veterans’ homes would be required to accept Medicare and Medicaid payments. The bill would also provide mental health resources to employees of state-operated veterans’ homes who worked during the pandemic and create a commission to rename the Veterans’ Homes in Chelsea and Holyoke after specific Massachusetts veterans,
 
Amendments to An Act relative to the governance, structure and care of veterans at the commonwealth’s veterans’ homes will be due on Monday, March 7, 2022, and the bill will be debated by the Senate next week.   https://malegislature.gov/Bills/192/S2739

MASS Senate Unveils Oversight Reform for Veterans’ Homes
MASS Senate Unveils Oversight Reform for Veterans’ Homes

Saturday, May 29, 2021

“I forgot,” Baker said of the meeting

"GOV. CHARLIE BAKER said Friday he “forgot” he had spoken with former Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh before naming him to the post, and expressed interest in taking action to implement reforms at the home after last year’s deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

Though Baker had previously said he first met Walsh, who was hired despite a lack of experience in health care management, when he swore him in, his administration confirmed in a Boston Globe Spotlight report into the events leading up to the outbreak that killed at least 76 veterans that Baker had interviewed Walsh beforehand."
Continue reading the article online

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

CommonWealth Magazine: 2 Holyoke Solders Home follow up articles

 

"A REPORT BY a legislative committee formed to investigate the COVID-19 outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home that left 77 veterans dead faulted a “crisis of leadership” for substantially contributing to what it called a “perfect storm” and a “preventable tragedy.”

“As we outline in this report, the causes were both immediate, including inexplicable decisions made by the Home’s leadership in the days and weeks preceding the outbreak, and long-standing, including systemic issues that left the Home mismanaged, understaffed, lacking sufficient oversight, and ill-equipped to protect its residents from a deadly infectious disease,” the committee, which was chaired by Rep. Linda Campbell of Methuen and Sen. Michael Rush of Boston, concluded. "

 

"Gov. Charlie Baker is eager to sign a bill on his desk providing $400 million for the construction of a new Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, but first he has to make a decision on a controversial project labor agreement contained in the legislation.

A project labor agreement requires the contractor chosen to build the home to use workers supplied by various trade unions and to abide by wage and benefit provisions in return for a no-strike clause."

https://commonwealthmagazine.org/the-download/baker-pressed-on-holyoke-soldiers-home-labor-agreement-2/


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Boston Globe Spotlight: "Failure of Command"

"Governor Charlie Baker was indignant last June, as he outlined the results of an investigation into the crisis at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home.

“It’s a very special place, and has always held a special place in my heart,” Baker said of the state-run home, where a COVID-19 outbreak had killed 76 veterans that spring — one of the highest death tolls of any senior-care center in the country.

The report by Boston attorney Mark Pearlstein was “nothing short of gut wrenching,” Baker said. The chaos and carnage at the Soldiers’ Home was “truly horrific and tragic.” There had been inexcusable failures of leadership by superintendent Bennett Walsh and of oversight by Secretary of Veterans’ Services Francisco Ureña, Baker said. So they both had to go.

At that press conference, Baker and Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders took no personal responsibility for the massive loss of life at a facility they oversaw. Instead, they laid blame solely on officials below them, particularly Walsh and Ureña, in what a Boston Globe Spotlight Team investigation has found was an often misleading narrative marked by omissions and false assertions. 

The governor distanced himself from the decision to hire superintendent Walsh, who now faces charges of criminal neglect during the pandemic. Baker said Walsh had been appointed by the Soldiers’ Home board of trustees, which “really wanted Bennett Walsh to have that job. And I can tell you that the first time I ever met him or talked to him was when we swore him in.”

That wasn’t true. Baker interviewed Walsh before naming him superintendent in 2016, despite Walsh’s lack of health care management experience, an administration spokesperson recently confirmed."

Continue reading the article online  (subscription may be required)
 
the veterans known to have died from COVID through May 23, 2020.
"the veterans known to have died from COVID through May 23, 2020"



Saturday, September 26, 2020

In the News: "Two officials charged in Holyoke Soldiers’ Home COVID outbreak"

From the Milford Daily News, an article of interest for Franklin: 

"Two of the top officials at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, where 76 veterans died of COVID-19 during an outbreak in early spring, have been criminally charged with neglect and causing serious bodily injury in a case that may be the first of its kind in the country.

“They risked their lives, from the beaches of Normandy to, some, the jungles of Vietnam,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, in a press conference Friday morning. “To know that they died under the most horrific circumstances is truly shocking.”

Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former Medical Director David Clinton face 10 felony counts each, five counts related to criminal neglect and five counts related to causing serious bodily harm. They face up to three years in prison for each criminal neglect count and 10 years in prison for each count tied to serious bodily injury."

Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required) https://www.milforddailynews.com/news/20200925/two-officials-charged-in-holyoke-soldiers-home-covid-outbreak?rssfeed=true

Related articles on this story:

Commonwealth Magazine: https://commonwealthmagazine.org/health-care/two-at-holyoke-soldiers-home-face-criminal-charges/

WBUR: https://www.wbur.org/news/2020/09/25/maura-healey-criminal-charges-holyoke-soldiers-home-bennett-walsh-clinton

Attorney General Maura Healey answers questions about her lawsuit that challenges a Trump administration policy that would kick international students out of the country for taking online-only courses at their universities. (Photo by Sarah Betancourt)
Attorney General Maura Healey answers questions about her lawsuit that challenges a Trump administration policy that would kick international students out of the country for taking online-only courses at their universities. (Photo by Sarah Betancourt)