HOLYOKE, Mass. (State House News Service) — The adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard and an Air National Guard flight surgeon are the newest members of the Holyoke Soldiers' Home Board of Trustees, the Baker administration announced Wednesday.
Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Maj. Gen. Gary Keefe, who has served as adjutant general since 2016, to a seven-year term to replace former trustee Christopher Dupont whose term ended in July. Baker tapped Lt. Col. Mark Bigda, a Southampton resident and private-practice physician, to fill the remaining two years of Cesar Lopez's term after Lopez resigned in September.
Keefe and Bigda, who is also the Hampshire County House of Correction's facility physician, are among three recent appointments to the board, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services said Wednesday. Baker also appointed Brigadier Gen. Sean Collins, a nurse practitioner and the Air National Guard assistant to the deputy surgeon general, to the board in July, following former trustee Richard Girard's resignation.
A statement announcing the appointments said the men "represent extensive experience in the military and health care, have a direct connection to Western and Central Massachusetts, and a commitment to serve the Commonwealth's veterans."
The news comes a day before the home's former medical director and superintendent, David Clinton and Bennett Walsh, are slated to be arraigned on criminal neglect charges for their roles in the COVID-19 outbreak that contributed to the death of at least 76 residents.
An investigation into the outbreak by attorney Mark Pearlstein, sought by the Baker administration, found that the home's trustees and former Veterans Affairs Secretary Francisco Urena recommended Walsh, who did not have a clinical or long-term care background, for the superintendent's job.
Baker filed a bill that would require at least two trustees for the Holyoke and Chelsea soldiers' homes to have relevant clinical or health care administration experience.
By Katie Lannan, State House News Service