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AG Maura Healey launches investigation into coronavirus outbreak at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home

The Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke.
The Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke.Erin Clark/Globe Staff

Attorney General Maura Healey has launched an investigation into the coronavirus outbreak at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, a state-run elderly care facility where more than two dozen veterans have died since March 24.

“Our office is launching an investigation into Holyoke Soldiers’ Home to find out went wrong at this facility and determine if legal action is warranted,” Healey said in a statement. "My heart goes out to the families who lost loved ones under these tragic circumstances.”

The investigation is separate from a probe ordered last week by Governor Charlie Baker, who tapped Mark Pearlstein, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor, to review the events that led to the outbreak.

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In the state’s largest fatal outbreak of the coronavirus, 27 veterans have died, at least 20 due to the contagion, and 62 others have tested positive. At least a quarter of staff members have also been infected.

State officials said they did not learn about the severity of the outbreak until five days after the first casualty on March 24, when an anonymous tipster and the unions raised alarm. Last week, the Globe reported that the outbreak was initially kept secret, even as casualties mounted. The home has struggled for years with understaffing and mismanagement that state officials did little to address, despite pleas from former leaders, employees and union representatives. Both these issues contributed to the extent of the virus’s spread, the Globe reported.

After the outbreak became public, Governor Charlie Baker placed the facility’s superintendent, Bennett Walsh, on paid administrative leave.

“I think we all are appalled by what took place at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and especially the lack of follow- through in protocols in respect to reporting,” Baker said at a news conference Wednesday when asked about Healey’s investigation. “Obviously the AG has particular oversight responsibilities and we welcome her review.”

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Baker has named Val Liptak, chief executive of Western Massachusetts Hospital, as interim superintendent of the facility and deployed a National Guard contingent to expedite coronavirus testing, distribute personal protective equipment and relieve overburdened nurses.

The state attorney general’s office has the statutory authority to investigate both criminal and civil violations of law.


Hanna can be reached at hanna.krueger@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @hannaskrueger.