7Investigates: 2019 state-ordered report shows staffing at Holyoke Soldiers’ Home was dangerously low

HOLYOKE, MASS. (WHDH) - More than a year ago, the state’s Executive Office of Health and Human Services hired Suffolk University to look into the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home to see if the state was wasting money on excessive overtime.

The report, released June 2019, highlighted the real problem.

“When Suffolk went in, they said there’s no padded payrolls. Your staffing is way below this recommended level,” says Greg Sullivan, former Massachusetts Inspector General, and Research Director and Pioneer Institute.

Sullivan says the report should have changed everything.

“It’s a bombshell, in my opinion, because it shows the officials in charge had been given fair warning, that the staffing at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home was way below the recommended amount of staff by the federal government. In fact, the registered nurses, the staffing, was in the lowest 10 percent of the country,” says Sullivan.

In the report, nursing staff said, “there is not enough staff to provide care for veterans ..” and “they struggled to find someone to assist with lifts to help veterans out of bed.”

It goes on to say “… senior management was confident that the staffing plan was sufficient …”

“The state was aware of the question of problems with staffing there and they got handed a report that made it clear that it was chronically understaffed. The response just wasn’t there,” says Sullivan.

Gov. Charlie Baker says staffing levels at Holyoke, and facilities similar to it, have always been “responsibly consistent.” He says the 2019 report brought up another issue.

“The report talks about the fact that one of the things Holyoke doesn’t have is a permanent schedule. Which I think is where a number of the issues associated with the friction between management and labor came from,” Baker said at a press conference Wednesday.

He also said he’s been working with the union to create a permanent staffing schedule at the home, which he hopes to have in place by September.

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