By Bob Katzen

The Senate 38-1, approved an amendment that would require that both veterans’ homes be licensed by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) and be required to meet state standards that are currently required for nursing facilities. Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), the sponsor of the amendment, said the amendment will ensure that the homes meet high state standards.

“I was proud to file an amendment to this bill to require that the Secretary of Veterans Services be notified of any violation identified during a DPH inspection of a Soldiers’ Home and to require Soldiers’ homes to comply with existing, strict DPH standards for skilled nursing facilities through a process of licensure,” said Comerford. “We should not rely solely on federal standards, which is why this amendment requires Soldiers’ homes comply with state standards—the same standards skilled nursing facilities are held to. The amendment will advance … the state’s efforts to provide the highest quality care for the individuals who have served our nation.”

“Long before COVID-19, many facilities across Massachusetts failed to maintain proper infection control procedures and staffing levels,” said Sen. Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford), the only senator to vote against the amendment. “They were totally unprepared for a global pandemic and thousands of our loved ones perished, including those who valiantly served this country. Under current state law, a violation of the Department’s regulations is punishable by a paltry $50 fine while violations of a federal standard … can result in penalties of up to $22,300. If we are going to deter cost-cutting measures that jeopardize safety, then we must absolutely implement a state fine structure that closely aligns with federal standards and that reflect the pain and suffering inflicted on these vulnerable individuals and their families. Otherwise, the law has no teeth, and more lives will be jeopardized.”

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