I-Team: Whistleblowers fired after raising concerns about soldiers’ homes during pandemic
BOSTON – Two top ranking state employees are speaking out, claiming the state did not follow health care regulations into the soldiers’ homes whereduring the COVID pandemic.
The whistleblowers say they were fired after they raised concerns and cooperated with the Inspector General’s Office.
Eric Sheehan, the assistant secretary of veterans’ homes, says everyone knew he was a straight shooter. The former Marine wrote the health care regulations for long term care facilities and was brought in to oversee the Chelsea and Holyoke homes. “If there was anyone that knew what the rules were, I’m certainly one of the experts in that area,” Sheehan said.
Beth Scheffler is also an expert in the regulations. A nurse practitioner, Beth spent 20 years investigating heath care facilities for the Massachusetts Department of Health. Eric hired Beth to manage the nursing staff in Chelsea. Beth says she quickly found problems. “I was astounded. I was astounded,” she said.
Beth found the home used paper medical records and stored them on the basement floor in piles.
“They were lacking in very basic infection control requirements,” Beth said. “Training people on basic protective equipment from hand hygiene to how to put on a gown they didn’t have any of that.”
The pair says they put policies in place to comply with state guidelines, but later found they were not being followed. “When I started pushing back on my boss, identifying issues, for example infection control protocol in Holyoke weren’t being done, and at one point she told me to basically back off, that the superintendents don’t report to me,” Eric said.
Attorney Andrew Couture represents Eric and Beth. “They were telling their supervisors about the issues within these homes and they were being ignored and ignored,” Couture said. “They saved emails, text messaging, their story can be proved.”
Beth tells the I-Team she became so frustrated with the lack of response she filed a complaint with the Office of the Inspector General. “I signed my name to it, and I gave them all the details and everything I knew and sent it to them,” Beth said. “My first interview with them was scheduled on the very same day I was told I was no longer needed at the home. I was fired because I raised concerns.”
Weeks after Beth’s interview investigators contacted Eric. “I was interviewed twice by them,” Eric said. “The second interview was about three hours on October 14, and then I was terminated on October 18.”
Eric and Beth’s attorney says he has notified the state that they plan to file a whistleblower lawsuit.
“When I was offered the job as assistant secretary, I was reassured just tell us what we don’t know,” Eric said. “I did that, and then I got fired for that.”
WBZ contacted the Department of Veterans Services about the allegations and were told it does not comment on potential litigation.