Head of Chelsea Soldiers’ Home Fired

The head of the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home was fired by new Governor Maura Healey’s administration on Thursday, Jan. 12.

The firing of Eric Johnson came a week after the state Inspector General sent a letter to outgoing Health and Human Services Director Mary Lou Sudders detailing and reiterating disturbing incidents of mismanagement and mistreatment at the soldiers home during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Boston Globe also recently reported on excessive overtime payments to the home’s nursing director.

The soldiers home will be overseen by Robert Engell, the state’s assistant secretary of Veterans’ Homes and Housing.

In the letter from Inspector General Jeffrey Shapiro, he states his office has now reviewed seven reports from the EHS Investigations Unit and one report from a member of the health and human services leadership team. The Inspector General’s office also requested and received documentation of dozens of complaints from the Commonwealth’s Investigations Center for Expertise (COE) into the Home and its management.

“Together, these reports paint a grim picture of the Home’s treatment of the veterans who live there, and a concerning portrait of the superintendent’s leadership and the work environment at the Home,” Shapiro stated in the Jan. 6 letter.  “Equally troubling is the fact that EHS has been aware of these issues since at least the summer of 2022 but has not taken significant corrective action. Most importantly, two of these reports described the unacceptable living conditions and clinical care for some of the Home’s veterans.”

A July 12, 2022, report by an EHS employee focused on the conduct of a certified nurse assistant. That report concluded that veterans at the home had been found lying “soaked in urine and sitting in feces” or “saturated in urine and double briefed.”

That report also alleged that a member of the nursing staff failed to use the proper equipment to move a patient “many times” and that performance issues on the nursing staff were “going unchecked.”

Shapiro stated that in August 2022, a senior member of Sudders’ leadership team wrote that at least a dozen rooms in the Domiciliary were in “terrible” condition, with feces, dead rodents, dirt and bugs present. “These conditions point to a catastrophic failure of the Home’s leadership,” Shapiro stated. “In addition, the reports make it clear that Superintendent Eric Johnson lacks the capacity and integrity to manage the Home.”

Shapiro went on to state that the issues raised strongly indicated that the soldiers’ home was not functioning properly and the leadership under Johnson was actively failing. He stated that the issues that were highlighted echoed those found by the Inspector General’s office at the troubled Holyoke Soldiers’ Home between 2016 and early 2020.

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, a number of state and local leaders toured the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, including state Representative Judith Garcia and state Senator Sal DiDomenico. Garcia stated they met with administrators and residents, and were committed to redesigning the home for a safer, happier future.

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