GOV. CHARLIE BAKER on Wednesday rebuffed members of the state’s congressional delegation who called for an independent investigation of the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home and defended his decision not to embrace one of the key recommendations in a report examining what went wrong at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home and caused the death of 76 veterans.
Mark Pearlsein, whose report on the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home was released last week, recommended that future superintendents of the home “should be licensed nursing home administrators with substantial healthcare experience.” The report said the licensing requirement was a way of guaranteeing a baseline level of competence.
Baker had said he would adopt all of Pearlstein’s recommendations, but he backed off the licensing requirement in releasing a package of reform measures. The package said a licensed nursing home administrator at the facility would be preferred but not required.
The governor said on Wednesday that he modified the language in his package of reforms because it was too restrictive. He said Val Liptak, a registered nurse and director of Western Massachusetts Hospital, isn’t a licensed nursing home administrator but has done a terrific job as interim superintendent at Holyoke.
“I would hate to miss out on an opportunity to put a talent like that in place in Holyoke if a talent like that is available,” Baker said.
The governor said the next superintendent should have a background in clinical care, infectious diseases, and great recommendations from her previous employers.
Baker also turned aside calls by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Rep. Ayanna Pressley for an investigation into the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, where an outbreak of COVID-19 resulted in the deaths of 31 veterans.
“First of all, Chelsea is not Holyoke,” he said. “I want to make that really clear.”
He said the administration intends to bring in infectious disease specialists to do a top to bottom scrub of the Chelsea facility looking for weaknesses and ways to improve operations. “If there are practices that can be improved on or things that should be done going forward, particularly as we start to think about whether there is going to be a surge in the fall, that we’re prepared,” he said.
Baker made his comments at the YMCA in Boston, which has been packaging food provided by the Greater Boston Food Bank and using the MBTA’s paratransit service to deliver the groceries to homeowners who need it.
James Morton, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston, said over the last 114 days the T’s paratransit drivers have delivered more than 60,000 bags of food, or roughly 600,000 meals.