Holyoke Soldiers’ Home deaths lead to criminal negligence charges against Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former Medical Director David Clinton
This is an update of a published story at 9:05 am
Holyoke Soldiers’ House Superintendent Bennett Walsh and Dr David Clinton, the home’s former medical director, have been charged with criminal negligence in connection with a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility that has killed dozens of veterans.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey’s office confirmed the charges Friday morning and said Walsh, 50, and Clinton, 71, were indicted by a state grand jury on Thursday. The men each face five counts of two separate counts: a guard who willfully or recklessly commits or allows bodily harm to an elderly or disabled person, and a charge formulated in the same manner. regarding alleged “abuse, neglect or mistreatment” of an elderly or disabled person.
The charges come six months after Healey’s office began investigating the outbreak at the 247-bed long-term care facility that claimed the lives of 76 veterans and sickened scores of others – some of whom are still recovering at Soldiers’ Home or other establishments.
Healey said she believed the case was the first in the country brought against nursing home administrators since the start of the pandemic, adding that there were ongoing investigations into other care facilities. long-term with high mortality rates due to COVID-19[female[feminine.
“We owed it to the families who lost loved ones and to these veterans who served their country to shed light on what happened,” Healey said.
She and her staff interviewed 90 families affected by the outbreak at Soldiers’ Home, Healey said.
“They risked their lives from the beaches of Normandy to the jungles of Vietnam,” Healey said. “Knowing that they died under the most horrific circumstances is shocking. “
Tracy Miner, a Boston attorney representing Walsh in the criminal case, said neither Walsh nor other nursing home administrators across the country could prevent the virus from entering their facilities – or stopping its spread once arrived. “It is unfortunate that the Attorney General is blaming the effects of a deadly virus that our state and federal governments were unable to stop on Bennett Walsh,” Miner said.
Clinton, resigned because of the outbreak on June 24. He did not respond to previous requests for comment and the phone number for his private practice in South Hadley has been disconnected. His lawyer did not respond to a request for comment.
The state’s investigation focused on the decision by leaders of Soldiers’ Home to consolidate two dementia units into one on March 27, just before the death toll began to climb.
That same weekend, a refrigerated truck was parked outside as a makeshift morgue and excess body bags were delivered, according to a report written by Boston attorney Mark Pearlstein and commissioned by Governor Charlie Baker.
Pearstein called the move “catastrophic” and “baffling”, characterizing it as the first tipping point for the outbreak at Soldiers’ Home. Pearlstein’s report was made public and Walsh was fired the same day. He had previously been suspended and challenged his dismissal in court.
Healey said his investigation and accusations focused even more specifically on choosing to put nine apparently asymptomatic veterans in a dining room as staff stirred up veterans in an attempt to contain the virus.
“Residents believed to be asymptomatic were placed in nine beds in the dining room. However, the AG’s office alleges that several of the residents Soldiers’ Home classified as “asymptomatic” actually had symptoms consistent with COVID-19 at the time of consolidation or shortly thereafter, “Healey said.
Walsh and Clinton will be brought to justice at a later date in Hampden Superior Court, Healey said.
Healey was scheduled to discuss the indictments at 11 a.m. on Friday.
The epidemic is also under investigation by the US attorney’s office. That investigation is active and ongoing, a spokesperson said earlier this week.
This is a developing story that will be updated after further reports.