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REPORT: 40 Percent of New Jersey's COVID-19 Deaths Occurred in Nursing Homes

New Jersey Republicans slam omissions in report

(The Center Square) – A 100-page report on New Jersey’s response to nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic cites staffing shortages and poor communication as problems that

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should be addressed.

More than 40 percent of the state’s 11,880 deaths occurred in nursing homes, prompting criticism from state Republicans.

The report conducted by Manatt Health that cost the state $500,000 does nothing but shift blame to “anyone but the governor,” Republican state Sen. Steven Oroho said in a statement.

“What taxpayers received back is a glossy report that repackages the State’s data in colorful graphs and charts, he said. “The report glosses over the fact that the administration forced our [long-term care] facilities to admit COVID-19 patients, which led to thousands of deaths. With that glaring deficiency, the entire report is suspect.”

The report focused on the state’s nursing homes and not assisted living facilities, veterans memorial homes and developmental centers.

The nursing home industry was largely “underprepared for the threat of a widespread infection and under-resourced due to long-standing staffing shortages or low staffing ratios," according to the report.

“Nursing homes generally were not adequately tied into the larger system of care and typically do not have strong communications and consult relationships and protocols with emergency departments,” the report said. “Further, there is often poor communication between nursing homes and hospitals at the point of hospital admissions and discharges.”

Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said during a news conference Thursday that her department did not “have a full picture of their backup plans.”

“What I would have done differently is really focused on the resiliency of our nursing home industry and from day one, probably, probably should have looked at that a bit more critically,” she said.

Four recommendations were made in the report to increase transparency, strengthen the workforce and improve the facilities emergency response. Some of the recommendations may result in legislation, according to Gov. Phil Murphy.

The state will use $10 million in coronavirus relief funds to implement changes, the governor said.

“This report is a call for all of us to do better,” Murphy said.

Republican Sen. Kristin Corrado said the report isn’t worth its “$5,000 per page" price tag.

“We have documented evidence of the orders from the Department of Health that delivered a wildfire of infection into the vulnerable population of our nursing homes, reports of a key figure being fired and perhaps scapegoated, and damning new claims from whistleblowers within the administration,” Corrado said. “There is nothing in the report that addresses any of those concerns or lessens my belief that we need a thorough legislative review with the power to subpoena witnesses.”

Republicans say the firing of Assistant Commissioner Christopher Neuwirth “an attempt to hide misconduct within the administration.” Murphy has not commented on the firing of Neuwirth, who had another job with an emergency management consulting firm. Republican senators want letters and other documents related to Neuwirth’s employment to be preserved for future hearings.

Democrats admitted the report “shed light on the fragility of our state’s long-term care system.”

“It is critically important that we increase transparency and provide necessary resources across all affected Departments to enhance oversight in order to address the deficiencies that led to outbreaks within our long-term care facilities," said Sen. Joseph Vitale and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle in a joint statement. "It is equally important to build a resilient and stabilized health care system with strong workplace protections and adequate staffing in place to swiftly respond to future outbreaks.”

 

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