- Office of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump
Mike Wessler, Communications Director
Boston — Auditor Suzanne M. Bump today released an audit which identified safety and sanitation issues throughout living, eating, and medical facilities, as well as operational issues with equipment at the Soldiers Home in Massachusetts-Chelsea (SHC). A recent follow-up inspection by the Auditor and her audit staff found that the identified deficiencies had been remedied, but also noted that obvious structural deterioration of the buildings on the campus pose a continuing challenge.
“Massachusetts has a proud history of service to our veterans. The audit findings and the overall conditions at the campus jeopardize our right to brag about our current level of respect and dedication,” Bump said. “We found serious health and safety issues arising from under-staffing exacerbated by the early retirement of experienced staff, insufficient inspections of residents’ rooms, an absence of procedures for identifying and correcting problems, and inadequate resources for the upkeep of an aged physical plant.”
The audit found SHC was not providing residents with safe and sanitary living conditions.
Auditors found scattered trash and debris, overloaded electrical outlets, loose and cracked plaster, and evidence of pest and human waste. It additionally noted circumstances by which pollutants from leaking sewer and water lines could contaminate food. These deficient conditions were found in resident rooms, common areas, medical facilities, and the kitchen.
The audit also found that heating and hot-water systems had not received required inspections, and that a kitchen fire extinguisher was empty and inoperable.
Additionally, the audit found that SHC’s protocols for conducting room inspections were deficient.
“The SHC leadership was quick to fix the problems we identified,” Bump said. “However, this was not the first time these kinds of problems were found at the Home. They also told us about the several long-range planning studies now underway to address the future needs of veterans. That is well and good, but those facilities need considerable remediation urgently to keep the buildings safe and healthy and to respect the dignity of the veterans who reside there. I hope that executive and legislative branch leadership will use this audit to guide their efforts to develop long-term improvements to the Soldiers’ Home, as well as prompting more immediate action to improve the conditions for those living there today."
Bump also announced that her office has begun audits of the Soldiers Home in Holyoke and the Department of Veterans Services.
SHC was established in 1882 and is one of the oldest and largest veterans’ homes in the country. SHC’s mission is to provide healthcare, housing, and human services to eligible Massachusetts veterans. It operates a 174-bed long-term-care facility, as well as a 305-bed Domiciliary Unit. It operates within the Department of Veterans’ Services, which is a part of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.