This is Bennett Walsh with his good friend Charlie Baker who appointed him to be Superintendent of the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home for veterans.
Bennett donated $1,950 to both Karyn Polito and Charlie Baker since being appointed to the position in 2016.
He is a politically connected hack whose father (Daniel Walsh) was the former Springfield veterans services director, and his mother (Kateri Walsh) is a Springfield City Councilor.
Bennett is a veteran himself, and I’m sure he was a fine marine. But he wasn’t qualified for the position, and the previous superintendent (Paul Barabani) and several higher ups quit because the state wasn’t giving them enough financial support.
Walsh officially began the $115,000-a-year job at the end of May. A Marine Corps veteran, Walsh takes the helm of the soldiers’ home at a time of significant leadership changes. Former superintendent Paul Barabani retired in January, claiming that the state was failing to provide sufficient funding for the home. At the same time, the deputy superintendent and chairman of the board of trustees also resigned.
Shockingly, the new management appointed by Charlie Baker said that funding was perfectly adequate for the home.
Secretary of Veteran Services Francisco Urena called the swearing-in “an exciting day” for the facility. Asked whether the soldiers’ home needs more state money, Urena said, “We’re very pleased with the level of funding…that Gov. Baker has committed to our home.”
Bennett Walsh was praised by both Democratic and Republican elected officials, despite having no experience running a home of this size (well over 200 residents).
Local lawmakers also praised Walsh. “This is someone who’s led Marines in combat in Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. I couldn’t be happier, couldn’t be prouder with the governor’s and the trustees’ selection,” said State Rep. John Velis, D-Westfield, a U.S. Army Reserves captain.
State Sen. Don Humason, R-Westfield, said he thinks Walsh “will be that fierce advocate that we need to protect the soldiers’ home.” “Bennett has that right local feeling, being a Springfield kid… He will make sure that it retains its unique character as a Western Massachusetts entity, although it serves veterans from across the state,” Humason said.
Bennett Walsh’s entire list of qualifications seem to be that he was a “local kid”, his Mommy and Daddy were well known political hacks, and he wasn’t gonna complain like the guy before him.
Update: It’s now being reported that 18 are dead at the Hoyloke Soldier’s Home.
Then this week it was revealed that the home had covered up the deaths of at least six veterans from the commie cold, which had infected even more veterans and staff. The first veteran tested positive on March 21. Charlie Baker was not alerted about it until March 29, after Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse found out through the grapevine that multiple people had died. The testimonials coming from people who work there are insane, and have been documented by the Hampshire Gazette:
One Soldiers’ Home CNA said management allowed the first veteran awaiting his COVID-19 test result to mingle in common areas with two dozen other veterans. After he tested positive, the veteran’s roommates were moved to rooms with other residents instead of being isolated in accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that CNA said.
The CNA also alleged that management did not provide employees with personal protective equipment, or PPE, when they were interacting with the patient awaiting coronavirus test results. And after the patient tested positive for COVID-19, management did not direct those employees to self-isolate.
“We were not allowed to wear proper PPE, the N95, until somebody was positive,” the second CNA said, referring to the masks used in most hospital settings when interacting with potentially contagious patients.
As employees became sick, other staffers who were still able to work had to float from unit to unit to make up for the absences, risking spreading the virus further, the first CNA said.
The first CNA said Walsh created a threatening environment in the building for workers, saying over the intercom that those using COVID-19 as an excuse to stay home from work would be disciplined.
“There’s no staff, and some people are being mandated to work 16-hour shifts because there’s nobody to cover, and these people don’t have a choice,” the first CNA said. “You can refuse to work, but you get suspended … So people are kind of stuck between, ‘Do I work in unsafe conditions, or do I keep my job?’”
Eventually, the CNA said, so many employees had called out of work with COVID-19 symptoms that Soldiers’ Home higher-ups decided to combine the facility’s two dementia units, packing residents into even closer quarters.
“They took all the veterans from the floor on the top and combined them with the veterans downstairs, where the original illness began,” said the CNA. “All they’re doing is creating a big petri dish with all of these gentlemen getting this virus.”
Those accounts were separately confirmed by the second CNA, who said that staffing has always been thin at the Soldiers’ Home and was made even worse by the pandemic.
“They’ve spread out veterans so now we have six beds in rooms that normally had three or four beds,” the second CNA said. “So forget about social distancing — they’re all on top of one another.”
The second CNA said that employees voicing concerns about developing symptoms after being exposed — without PPE — to possibly contagious patients were told by managers that they could have simply caught the virus “at the grocery store.” The CNA added that workers are now being required to use their sick time while awaiting test results.
“I lost four (veterans) in one day,” the second CNA said. “And I just needed to go and cry because it’s not OK.”
According to Masslive family members had no idea any of this was happening and were not alerted to it by the home.
“I was shocked on the phone call when the superintendent let me know that there had been eight veteran deaths between Wednesday and Sunday without any public notice, without any notification to our office and no notification to the state government that oversees the facility in the first place,” he said. “There was a clear lack of urgency on that phone call. We were repeatedly told these were people who had underlying health conditions.”
Morse said that a subsequent phone call with Walsh and state Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs Francisco Ureña left him “disappointed in the lack of urgency or action.”
“At no time did I, or anyone on my staff, hide, conceal or mislead anyone regarding the tragic impact of the virus and it would be outrageous for anyone to even think of doing such a thing.”
NEW: Holyoke Soldiers' Home Superintendent Bennett Walsh releases a statement denying any wrongdoing as 2 more veterans die, bringing total number of deaths to 15. 6 have tested positive for COVID-19. The test results for 6 others are pending. 2 tested negative & 1 unknown. pic.twitter.com/suDyGx2Zdi
— Mike Saccone (@mikesacconetv) April 2, 2020
You didn’t hide anything? Governor Baker didn’t find out until EIGHT DAYS after the first guy was testing positive. You run a building that holds people who are most likely to get and died from the disease, and you not only failed to report to the governor, you also allowed it to spread all over your facility by not following social distance guidelines. Meanwhile I’m sitting in my home and I’m being told we can’t have Grandma over to see her grand crotch fruits.
And according to family members of residents who live there they really weren’t told much besides the fact that one resident who tested positive was put into isolation.
“You hoped for the best and you prayed,” Turgeon said of her reaction to the letter. “At no time did we know it was as serious as what was going on.”
Like Twining, she said she only learned about the extent of the crisis — including the deaths — through news reports on Monday. Turgeon said she was “floored” because she had been in daily phone contact with her father via staff at the facility.
Twining said that for two weeks she scoured social media for hints of what was happening at the facility. She learned about the outbreak through news reports on Monday.
“All last week I tried to get a hold of the nurses, the social workers, and nobody would return my call,” she said. “I think that they’re not allowed to tell the public anything.”
So basically they told them that one guy had the bug and gave them the impression that everything was under control. Meanwhile residents who came in contact with the guy who had it were mingling with everyone else, the disease spread throughout the facility, no one was made aware of anything (including the governor) and now six veterans are dead.
Bennett Walsh is now on paid administrative leave while he is being investigated. Ya got that? While millions of Americans have lost their jobs to this disease, the guy who fucked up and let a bunch of veterans die gets to sit at home and collect a six figure salary. Did he mean to kill these people? Of course not. But you don’t have to commit a crime to be fired from your job.
Bennett Walsh is just the latest in a long list of controversial people who Charlie Baker has advocated for. Let’s not forget, Baker still has not renounced his endorsement of Luke Noble for North Andover Selectmen, despite the fact that Noble was caught on video verbally abusing his daughter, and was credibly accused by that same daughter, her pediatrician, and her therapist of sexual abuse.
This is a disturbing video of Luke Noble, a candidate for North Andover Board of Selectmen pic.twitter.com/IDg9WCCWLu
— Max (@SurelyMacks) March 13, 2020
He also refused to discipline his friend Dan Bennett for his role in Troopergate, nor has he done anything to Stephanie Pollack for her role in allowing seven bikers to be killed by a man whose license she had the power to revoke in June.
Charlie Baker must answer for this, but which mainstream media outlet has the guts to ask the right questions? Bennett Walsh didn’t appoint himself. Charlie Baker did.
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