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Two top leaders of soldiers’ home indicted for criminal neglect

Colleen Croteau is sickened and heartbroken by the horror of her father’s last days inside the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home during the pandemic.”What was taken away from him was his dignity, and in the last days, especially dying in that cafeteria with no electricity,” she said.Croteau’s father, Air Force veteran Donald Bushey, was part of the controversial move in March where healthy veterans were moved to the same unit with COVID-19-positive and symptomatic veterans. He spent the last hours of his life in a bed in the dining room that was ill-equipped to handle sick patients and offered no privacy.”Next to him were patients who were well and they were up and about, eating lunch while my dad was within the last hours of his life,” his daughter said.5 Investigates first reported Friday that two of the home’s former top leaders – Superintendent Bennett Walsh and medical director Dr. David Clinton – have been indicted by a state grand jury 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 soldiers’ home.Two separate investigations have now concluded Walsh failed in his oversight of the facility and carrying out its mission to care for veterans. A lieutenant colonel with the Marines, Walsh had no experience in the long-term care of older veterans.Critical decisions Walsh approved during the height of the pandemic led to dozens of veterans dying. He approved the decision to combine sick and healthy veterans pushed by former chief nursing officer Vanessa Lauziere, who later resigned. Walsh and Lauziere claimed staffing shortages gave them no other option. Clinton, who has specialized in internal medicine for 42 years, advised against isolating the first COVID-19-positive veteran because he felt veterans on the unit were already exposed to the deadly virus. He said he was not consulted about and disagreed with the merging of the units but did nothing to stop it. “Their mission was always to care for our veterans with dignity and respect, and the staff did that to the best of their ability,” Croteau said. “It was the leadership who dropped the ball. It’s awful the way they handled it.”Walsh and Clinton were well-paid for their work at the home. Walsh, superintendent of the home since 2016, was paid $123,752 a year, He also cashed in on $23,432 in unused sick and vacation time on his way out the door.Clinton worked only 20 hours a week at the home, but was paid an annual salary of $116,680. This year, he also pocketed $15,692 in overtime pay and an $11,243 buyout.Croteau believes people should be held accountable for what happened, but said she does not want to see anyone go to jail. She said too many families have already suffered because of what happened at the soldiers’ home.In the aftermath of all the missteps that had such deadly consequences, Croteau paused to reflect on her father, a man who loved his family and his country and a veteran like all the others who died at the soldiers’ home. “He saw a lot of horrible things during that time of his service and he deserved dignity,” she said. “That was stripped away.”———————————————————————————————————-Statement from Bennett Walsh’s lawyer, Tracy Miner:”It is unfortunate that the Attorney General is blaming the effects of a deadly virus that our state and federal governments have not been able to stop on Bennett Walsh. Mr. Walsh has spent his entire life in the service of our country, first in active duty in the Marine Corps for 24 years and then serving other veterans as the Superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers Home. He, like other nursing home administrators throughout the Commonwealth and nation, could not prevent the virus from coming to the Home or stop its spread once it arrived there. At all times, Mr. Walsh relied on the medical professionals to do what was best for the veterans given the tragic circumstances of a virus in a home with veterans in close quarters, severe staffing shortages, and the lack of outside help from state officials. The Attorney General should not be scapegoating Mr. Walsh, who was on the front lines trying his best to do whatever he could to help the Veterans of the Holyoke Soldiers Home, including asking for help from state officials and the National Guard, which arrived much too late.”————————————————————————————————————————Charges and maximum sentences as explained by the Massachusetts Attorney General Office and by Attorney General Maura Healey: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 – maximum prison term of 10 years on each count) and Caretaker Who Wantonly or Recklessly Commits or Permits Abuse, Neglect, or Mistreatment to an Elder or Disabled Person (5 counts for each defendant – maximum prison term of three years on each count). Walsh and Clinton will be arraigned in Hampden County Superior Court at a later date.

Colleen Croteau is sickened and heartbroken by the horror of her father’s last days inside the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home during the pandemic.

“What was taken away from him was his dignity, and in the last days, especially dying in that cafeteria with no electricity,” she said.

Croteau’s father, Air Force veteran Donald Bushey, was part of the controversial move in March where healthy veterans were moved to the same unit with COVID-19-positive and symptomatic veterans. He spent the last hours of his life in a bed in the dining room that was ill-equipped to handle sick patients and offered no privacy.

“Next to him were patients who were well and they were up and about, eating lunch while my dad was within the last hours of his life,” his daughter said.

5 Investigates first reported Friday that two of the home’s former top leaders – Superintendent Bennett Walsh and medical director Dr. David Clinton – have been indicted by a state grand jury 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 soldiers’ home.

Two top leaders of soldiers’ home indicted for criminal neglect

Two separate investigations have now concluded Walsh failed in his oversight of the facility and carrying out its mission to care for veterans. A lieutenant colonel with the Marines, Walsh had no experience in the long-term care of older veterans.

Critical decisions Walsh approved during the height of the pandemic led to dozens of veterans dying. He approved the decision to combine sick and healthy veterans pushed by former chief nursing officer Vanessa Lauziere, who later resigned. Walsh and Lauziere claimed staffing shortages gave them no other option.

Clinton, who has specialized in internal medicine for 42 years, advised against isolating the first COVID-19-positive veteran because he felt veterans on the unit were already exposed to the deadly virus. He said he was not consulted about and disagreed with the merging of the units but did nothing to stop it.

Two top leaders of soldiers’ home indicted for criminal neglect

“Their mission was always to care for our veterans with dignity and respect, and the staff did that to the best of their ability,” Croteau said. “It was the leadership who dropped the ball. It’s awful the way they handled it.”

Walsh and Clinton were well-paid for their work at the home. Walsh, superintendent of the home since 2016, was paid $123,752 a year, He also cashed in on $23,432 in unused sick and vacation time on his way out the door.

Clinton worked only 20 hours a week at the home, but was paid an annual salary of $116,680. This year, he also pocketed $15,692 in overtime pay and an $11,243 buyout.

Croteau believes people should be held accountable for what happened, but said she does not want to see anyone go to jail. She said too many families have already suffered because of what happened at the soldiers’ home.

Two top leaders of soldiers’ home indicted for criminal neglect

Colleen Croteau

Donald Bushey, Air Force veteran

In the aftermath of all the missteps that had such deadly consequences, Croteau paused to reflect on her father, a man who loved his family and his country and a veteran like all the others who died at the soldiers’ home.

“He saw a lot of horrible things during that time of his service and he deserved dignity,” she said. “That was stripped away.”

———————————————————————————————————-

Statement from Bennett Walsh’s lawyer, Tracy Miner:

“It is unfortunate that the Attorney General is blaming the effects of a deadly virus that our state and federal governments have not been able to stop on Bennett Walsh. Mr. Walsh has spent his entire life in the service of our country, first in active duty in the Marine Corps for 24 years and then serving other veterans as the Superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers Home. He, like other nursing home administrators throughout the Commonwealth and nation, could not prevent the virus from coming to the Home or stop its spread once it arrived there. At all times, Mr. Walsh relied on the medical professionals to do what was best for the veterans given the tragic circumstances of a virus in a home with veterans in close quarters, severe staffing shortages, and the lack of outside help from state officials. The Attorney General should not be scapegoating Mr. Walsh, who was on the front lines trying his best to do whatever he could to help the Veterans of the Holyoke Soldiers Home, including asking for help from state officials and the National Guard, which arrived much too late.”

————————————————————————————————————————

Charges and maximum sentences as explained by the Massachusetts Attorney General Office and by Attorney General Maura Healey:

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 – maximum prison term of 10 years on each count) and Caretaker Who Wantonly or Recklessly Commits or Permits Abuse, Neglect, or Mistreatment to an Elder or Disabled Person (5 counts for each defendant – maximum prison term of three years on each count). Walsh and Clinton will be arraigned in Hampden County Superior Court at a later date.

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