Baker Bill Would Start State Inspections of Soldiers' Home

BOSTON (State House News Service) — Annual state inspections would be required at the Holyoke Soldiers' Home under legislation Gov. Charlie Baker plans to file in the wake of an investigation that laid out a series of missteps the facility made in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Attorney Mark Pearlstein's 174-page report, released on Wednesday, recommended a series of changes after at least 76 veterans with COVID-19 died at the Holyoke home.

Baker said Wednesday that his administration would accept and implement all the report's recommendations, and on Thursday the Executive Office of Health and Human Services announced a series of reforms, including some that will be included in forthcoming legislation.

Baker plans to file a bill that will add two new members with health care backgrounds to the boards of trustees for the soldiers' homes in Holyoke and Chelsea. Other proposed legislative changes include adopting the superintendent-appointment process used in Chelsea at the Holyoke home.

The job posting for the next superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home "will include a preference for hiring a licensed nursing home administrator," according to the administration.

Pearlstein's report noted that a post created by the Legislature in 2016, the executive director of veterans home, has never been filled. According to the Baker administration, that posting has been published as of Wednesday, and the legislation that will be filed aims to clarify "this person's primary responsibility as supporting the Secretary of Veterans' Services oversight and management of the soldiers' homes."

The report noted that licensed long-term care facilities in Massachusetts are inspected annually by the Department of Public Health, but the soldiers' home in Holyoke is not. The home is instead surveyed annually by the federal Veterans Administration and every three years by The Joint Commission, a private accrediting organization."

By Colin A. Young, State House News Service

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