Washington: A grand jury in the US state of Massachusetts indicted for criminal neglect two managers of a veterans care facility whose actions contributed to the death of at least 76 residents during the novel coronavirus outbreak, State Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement.
The prosecution is focused on a March 27 decision to consolidate two dementia units of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke into one, which placed COVID-19 patients within feet of asymptomatic residents, increasing their exposure to the novel coronavirus.
“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,” Healey said in the statement on Friday.
Superintendent Bennett Walsh and former Medical Director David Clinton each face five counts of charges of caretaker who wantonly or recklessly commits or permits bodily injury to an elder or disabled person and another five of caretaker who wantonly or recklessly commits or permits abuse, neglect or mistreatment to an elder or a disabled person.
The investigation found out that residents who were positive or symptomatic for COVID-19 were placed six in a room 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 statement said.
The Soldiers’ Home is described by the prosecution as a state-run, fully accredited health care facility that offers veterans’ health care, hospice care, nursing services, a veterans’ assistance centre and outpatient services.
Walsh and Clinton will be arraigned in Hampden County Superior Court at a later date.