HOLYOKE, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- At the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home the number of veteran deaths climb to 15, with eight of those deaths testing positive for COVID-19.
Governor Charlie Baker spoke at a press conference in Worcester about the issue.
The governor today was fairly tight-lipped about the situation in the Holyoke Soldiers Home by saying he expects all the details to come out in the independent investigation led by Attorney Mark Pearlstein.
Meanwhile, nurse Joan Miller who works in the facility claims staffing shortages and moving residents around the building contributed to the virus’s deadly spread.
"We don’t have enough staff to take care of the veterans," Miller said.
More than a dozen veterans are dying at the Holyoke Soldiers Home, and the nurses who care for the veterans are working while trying to avoid catching the virus themselves.
Miller said it’s not easy because the limited staff must work on different units every day.
"You’re on my unit one day, which, we are free of it as of now that I know of and then the next day, you’re down in the unit that is blowing up with it and then the very next shift you’re back on my unit," Miller explained.
She also claims that many veterans are being moved out of their normal rooms to different parts of the building.
She said because of this, their living quarters became more cramped.
"The beds are right on top of each other, they can’t get to their bathrooms," Miller noted.
Miller also said this was exacerbated by a lack of adequate personal protective equipment given to the staff.
"They did not get the proper PPE in time," Miller said.
Now the home is under investigation by an attorney hired by the state. At a press conference today the governor didn’t give a timeline of when families would see the findings.
"I don't want him to rush this, I want him to get it right. I think I speak for every single family and every single person who worked there, everybody who cares about that place that at the end of the day what we want is the right answer," Miller explained.
Baker also wouldn't speak to whether or not criminal charges are expected to arise.
"I don't anticipate anything other than a thorough investigation by a trained professional who has an outstanding reputation who I believe will give us what we want which is answers to what went wrong and why. And what we can do to make sure it doesn't happen again," Gov. Baker said.
"I'm living alone...my family’s not with me and it’s tough," Miller noted.
For nurses like Miller, answers can’t come quickly enough.
"My daughter made an outline of my grandson's hand and that’s for me to hold whenever I miss him so that is a very poor substitute for my grandson," Miller explained.
State officials answered questions about the Holyoke Soldiers' Home said they have tested every resident for the virus and are expected to have resulted in 24 hours.
They also said they are now in the process of testing every staff member and are now establishing clear isolation and quarantine zones to mitigate the spread.