Massachusetts Inspector General Jeffrey Shapiro sent a strongly worded letter to outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Marilou Sudders this week, criticizing her office’s handling of the ongoing issue at the Chelsea soldier’s home.
The inspector general said his office reviewed eight reports from Sudders’ office in recent weeks and dozens of complaints about the home and its management. The Office of the Inspector General is an independent agency that helps prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse in government spending.
Shapiro wrote in the letter, “These reports paint a dire picture of the Home’s treatment of the veterans who live there, and the alarming state of supervisory leadership and working conditions at the Home.” What is troubling is that EHS has been aware of these issues since at least the summer of 2022 and has not taken any significant corrective action.”
He said two of the reports described “unacceptable” living conditions and home veteran care.
A July 12, 2022 report focused on the behavior of a certified nursing assistant and concluded that a veteran in his home was found lying “soaked in urine and sitting on feces.” Members of the nursing staff also “repeatedly” failed to move patients with the proper equipment, and nursing staff performance issues were reported to be “unchecked.”
In August 2022, a senior member of the Department of Health and Human Services wrote that at least 10 rooms were in “horrible” condition, with “feces, dead rats, dirt and bugs present.” A “catastrophic failure” of Home leadership.
You can read the full text of the letter below.
Emails to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs were not immediately returned on Thursday.
Shapiro’s letter also said superintendent Eric Johnson “lacks competence and integrity” in managing the home. It also mentioned retaliation, saying it was “reasonable” to conclude that an employee was “targeted for retaliation.” He said other reports found the superintendent “lacked candor” and did not answer investigators’ questions honestly and completely. Some reports have concluded that
Last fall, members of the union representing workers at the Chelsea Soldiers Home issued a statement distrustful of state officials’ decision to allow Johnson to return to work. I have been on paid leave since June.
“The above issues are a strong indication that the Home is not functioning properly and leadership is not working proactively,” Shapiro said. These are the same ones we found at the Soldiers’ Homes in Holyoke from 2019 to early 2020. After reviewing management practices at the Soldiers’ Homes in Holyoke, the Office has made recommendations to improve management practices at both locations. We’ve made a number of detailed recommendations for Commonwealth Soldiers’ Homes designed to prevent many of the problems currently occurring in Chelsea Soldiers’ Homes.
The inspector general went on to recommend that Sudders, who is stepping down from her post on Thursday, provide her successor with a “full and transparent briefing.”