Change the culture to Soldiers' Home, or the soap opera will continue

Posted: 08/11/2022 15:03:18 More than two years after the horrific news that dozens of veterans were neglected and died of COVID-19 ...

Posted: 08/11/2022 15:03:18

More than two years after the horrific news that dozens of veterans were neglected and died of COVID-19 at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, the drama continues horribly.

On the same day this month that Governor Charlie Baker signed a long-awaited bill overhauling the governance structure of Holyoke and Chelsea Veterans’ Homes, a jaw-dropping trial by an Easthampton nurse has been made public about the Holyoke house which is deeply disturbing. .

Kathleen Newman of Easthampton, a highly respected and highly experienced 38-year-old registered nurse, has filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that a patient with dementia was barricaded in her room and sedated to comply with COVID restrictions. She also says Holyoke House misrepresented the number of COVID deaths.

This continues the narrative that things are still not going well in Holyoke.

In December last year, Newman said he saw staff block a veteran in a room because the veteran was not cognitively able to comply with isolation guidelines in his room. According to Newman, staff gave the veteran excessively high doses of a sedative, then wedged a chair in his doorway to prevent him from leaving his room.

“The veteran not only remained in her room, but was unable to function and did not eat or drink for approximately 48 hours, which put her at serious risk of physical harm,” the lawsuit states. .

Newman claims she brought the matter to the attention of her boss who brushed off the concerns and said the incident was “not reportable”. It didn’t work for Newman who nevertheless reported the incident to the state Department of Public Health. She then claims to have been fired.

The court document, filed in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston, reads like a script from a daytime soap opera. There are incidents of emotional and moral conflict and foul language and verbal tirades. It rivals any high-intensity, prime-time medical series.

Newman, a former director of clinical training at home, was hired during the pandemic as part of a new leadership team to address many of the issues identified in numerous inquiries and investigations. But she quickly discovered a culture of fear and retaliation at home that she couldn’t break. And, in the end, as has happened to too many other members of state government, when you speak up, you’re either fired, forced to resign, or told you’re “not a good candidate”.

Others choose to leave when they accept the fact that you will either become part of the problem on the inside or you will have to come out to effect a change from the outside.

Newman doesn’t talk to the press, and neither does the state about his trial. When things are in dispute, that’s how it is. But I know Kathleen, and she’s pretty much the most outspoken, honest person you’ll ever meet. His moral compass always points to true north.

In my testimony before a state legislative inquiry committee examining the how and why of so many deaths in Holyoke and Chelsea homes during the pandemic, I pointed out that there was a toxic culture within of the state government which was an underlying factor in the staging. for what happened. It is a culture, I said, that the state must repair.

For decades, whether it’s crises at the Department of Children and Families, the MBTA, or within the ranks of the state police, how often have we seen politicians pointing fingers and looking for scapegoats or speechless state employees?

Employees who earn pensions and good salaries too often hide for not doing the right thing. This must stop.

Kathleen Newman and other employees who have reported abuse and wrongdoing are the few exceptions. These are real courage profiles. They are so special in our human galaxy, I call them “supernovas” – bright stars that are agents of change in an otherwise dark universe of darkening, lack of transparency and alternate facts.

The best and most successful healthcare systems in the world value these supernovas in building a culture of safety and employee engagement. In their teammates, they demand the highest integrity. In each department, they adopt a blameless environment. In their day-to-day practices, they encourage everyone, regardless of service line, to report errors, misconduct and misconduct without fear of reprimand or reprisal.

You can build a new facility like the state has pledged to do with a new $400 million soldiers house in Holyoke and you can pass laws to require better oversight, but as long as the state doesn’t will not have disrupted its work culture, you will not really see the transformation necessary for better care.

The first order of business is for the state to create exceptional teams and find leaders who will build mutual trust, integrity, open communication and camaraderie. If the state does not invest in personnel, the sensationalism will continue at the Soldiers’ Home.

It’s time to change channels in Holyoke. Our veterans do not want or deserve melodrama. They don’t want theatre. They just want to be cared for with skill, love and compassion by kind and good people who respect each other.

John Paradis, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, lives in Florence and writes a monthly column for the Gazette. H can be contacted at

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Newsrust - US Top News: Change the culture to Soldiers' Home, or the soap opera will continue
Change the culture to Soldiers' Home, or the soap opera will continue
Newsrust - US Top News
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