Two former administrators at a Massachusetts veterans home have been indicted for their actions during a coronavirus outbreak in the facility. Officials accused former Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former Medical Director Dr. David Clinton of criminal negligence, which resulted in the death of at least 76 veterans.
Prosecutors cited their decision to combine two dementia units at Holyoke Soldiers' Home due to staffing shortages back in March, during the early stages of the pandemic. They crammed 42 veterans into a unit meant to house just 25 people. Some of the veterans, including those who were showing symptoms of COVID-19, were forced to sleep in the dining room. A social worker raised concerns about combining the units but was told "it didn't matter because (the veterans) were all exposed anyway, and there was not enough staff to cover both units."
In one case, a veteran had displayed symptoms of the coronavirus for nearly two weeks but was allowed to live with three roommates and spend time in the common area of the unit. Officials said that instead of trying to mitigate the spread of the virus, Walsh and Clinton were more concerned with "preparing for the deaths of scores of residents."
"We allege that the actions of these defendants during the COVID-19 outbreak at the facility put veterans at higher risk of infection and death and warrant criminal charges," Massachusetts Attorney General, Maura Healey said.
Walsh and Clinton were each indicted on the five counts of being a caretaker who wantonly or recklessly commits or permits bodily injury to an elder or disabled person and five counts of being a caretaker who wantonly or recklessly commits or permits abuse, neglect, or mistreatment to an elder or disabled person. If convicted on all charges, they could face more than 50 years behind bars.
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