BOSTON — Massachusetts' secretary of veterans services has resigned ahead of the release of findings of an investigation into a deadly coronavirus outbreak at a home for aging veterans.
Francisco Urena told reporters late Tuesday that he was asked to resign and that he expects a former federal prosecutors' investigative report into the Holyoke Soldiers' Home to be released on Wednesday.
“I’m very sorry,” Urena told WCVB-TV. “I tried my best.”
Urena didn't immediately respond to a message sent Wednesday by The Associated Press. An email seeking comment was also sent to officials with the Department of Veterans' Services and Republican Gov. Charlie Baker's office.
Since March 1, nearly 80 veterans who contracted COVID-19 at the home have died, officials said.
The home’s superintendent was placed on administrative leave on March 30 and the CEO of Western Massachusetts Hospital, Val Liptak, took over operations.
Baker hired former federal prosecutor Mark Pearlstein to investigate what went wrong at the home.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey is also investigating to determine if legal action is warranted, she said. And the U.S. attorney’s office in Massachusetts and Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division are looking into whether the home violated residents’ rights by failing to provide them proper medical care.
Workers said they weren’t given adequate personal protective gear at the beginning of the outbreak and management didn’t properly isolate the first veteran to test positive for COVID-19. Staffing shortages that employees have been complaining about for years helped the virus spread quickly as nurses were forced to move from unit to unit to help out, they said.
The home’s superintendent, Bennett Walsh, has defended his response and accused state officials of falsely claiming they weren’t notified quickly enough about the spread of the virus.