- Office of Attorney General Maura Healey
Media Contact for AG Healey Announces Criminal Charges Against Superintendent and Former Medical Director of Holyoke Soldiers’ Home for Their Roles in Deadly COVID-19 Outbreak
Boston — Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former Medical Director David Clinton of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke (SHH) have been indicted on criminal neglect charges for their roles in the deadly COVID-19 outbreak that contributed to the death of at least 76 residents at the facility, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.
Bennett Walsh, age 50, of Springfield, and Dr. David Clinton, age 71, of South Hadley, were indicted on Thursday by a Statewide Grand Jury on the charges of Caretaker Who Wantonly or Recklessly Commits or Permits Bodily Injury to an Elder or Disabled Person (5 counts for each defendant) and Caretaker Who Wantonly or Recklessly Commits or Permits Abuse, Neglect, or Mistreatment to an Elder or Disabled Person (5 counts for each defendant). Walsh and Clinton will be arraigned in Hampden County Superior Court at a later date.
“We began this investigation on behalf of the families who lost loved ones under tragic circumstances and to honor these men who bravely served our country,” said AG Healey. “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.”
SHH is a state-run, fully accredited health care facility that offers veterans health care, hospice care (including full-time residential accommodations), nursing services, a veterans’ assistance center, and outpatient services, among other services. SHH operates a 247-bed long term nursing care facility with 24-hour licensed nursing staff, which includes a comfort care unit for veterans who need palliative care or hospice, and an enhanced care unit for veterans requiring additional physical, occupational, and respiratory services.
The AG’s Office began its investigation in early April 2020 after learning of serious issues with COVID-19 infection control procedures at SHH. The prosecution is principally focused on a March 27, 2020 decision to consolidate two dementia units into one, which resulted in the placement of symptomatic residents, including confirmed COVID-19-positive residents, symptomatic residents, and asymptomatic residents within feet of each other, increasing the exposure of asymptomatic veterans to the virus. The AG’s Office alleges that these decisions, which were ultimately the responsibility of Walsh and Clinton, were reckless and increased the likelihood that asymptomatic veterans at SHH would contract COVID-19 and put them at higher risk of death and harm.
The AG’s Office alleges that, faced with staffing shortages, SHH decided to consolidate the two dementia units, totaling 42 residents, even though the two units contained residents with different COVID-19 statuses. Residents who were positive or symptomatic for COVID-19 were placed, six in a room, in dormitory style rooms that normally held four veterans. The residents thought to be asymptomatic were placed in nine beds in the dining room. However, the AG’s Office alleges that several of the residents that SHH categorized as “asymptomatic” were, in fact, showing symptoms consistent with COVID-19 at the time of the consolidation or shortly thereafter.
The AG’s Office further alleges that beds in the dining room were just a few feet apart from each other and next to the room where confirmed positive residents were located. The residents in the consolidated unit were allegedly mingling together, regardless of COVID-19 status. The AG’s Office alleges that this decision was reckless from an infection control perspective and placed the asymptomatic veterans at an increased risk of contracting COVID-19.
These charges are allegations and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
This case is being investigated and prosecuted by Managing Attorney Kevin Lownds, Assistant Attorneys General Philip Schreiber and Kaushal Rana, Senior Healthcare Fraud Investigator Steven Pfister, and Investigator Shelby Stephens, all of the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Division. Investigations Supervisor Joseph Shea and Contractor Denise Long of the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Division and Victim Witness Advocate Amber Anderson of the AG’s Victim Services Division also provided substantial assistance throughout the investigation. The AG’s Office received substantial cooperation throughout its investigation from EOHHS, the SHH Board of Trustees, the Holyoke Mayor’s Office, SEIU 888, and the Massachusetts Nurses Association. The Medicaid Fraud Division receives 75 percent of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award. The remaining 25 percent is funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.