DOH Commissioner Defends NJ Nursing Home COVID Response:
Amid ongoing claims that the state’s efforts fell short in combatting the COVID crisis in New Jersey’s long-term care facilities, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli defended the state’s response to the pandemic at a recent budget hearing, speaking to accusations that the NJ Department of Health delayed nursing home inspections during the critical early months of the crisis and forced ill-equipped homes to re-admit COVID-positive residents, two failures which critics feel contributed to the over 8,000 COVID-19-related deaths that occurred at New Jersey nursing homes since the onset of the pandemic.
According to an article on NJ1015.com, DOH commissioner defends NJ nursing home COVID response, during a hearing originally called to discuss the department’s budget, but shifting focus to its pandemic response. Persichilli was prompted to go on the defensive regarding measures taken by the DOH. Regarding last spring’s directive concerning the re-admittance of COVID-positive residents to nursing homes from hospitals, Persichilli argued that the directive was indicated only for those homes that could meet certain requirements, such as those that were able to isolate sick residents, provide adequate staffing, and supply their staff with adequate PPE. Persichilli furthermore stated that alternate arrangements had been made to address facilities that could not meet such requirements, including the creation of three COVID-only facilities that accepted over 3,000 residents between April and June.
A NJ.com article conveyed Persichilli’s response to the criticism of inspection delays. She claimed a lack of PPE initially prevented inspections, but that in the ensuing months numerous nursing home inspections—including over 1,000 infection control inspections—turned up more than 600 violations, which led the DOH to levy $2.2 million in fines against 79 operators. While the health commissioner did not specify which facilities were cited or what the nature of the violations were, Persichilli indicated that numerous failures on the part of the facilities themselves had much to do with the scope of the pandemic’s impact on nursing homes.
“We are dealing in long-term care with an industry that has lacked resiliency for years,” Persichilli said.
Critics of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s handling of the pandemic have been vocal over perceived shortcomings since the news broke regarding the state-licensed Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in the County of Sussex, where last year 17 bodies were found piled in a makeshift morgue after the facility was overwhelmed by COVID. According to a Patch.com article, requests for public records—from those relating to inspection reports for the Subacute facilities, to those involving the DOH’s communications with Andover Subacute’s legal counsel, to those revealing details regarding Andover Subacute’s PPE inventory—have yet to be provided by the department.
Andover Subacute I and II, since renamed Limecrest Subacute and Rehabilitation and Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center, had a history of deficiencies prior to being ravaged by COVID, and maintained a “much below average” 1-star rating for three years in a row. Following the makeshift morgue incident, an inspection by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), determined that the facility had failed to provide proper infection control, which “caused, or was likely to cause” serious injury, serious harm, serious impairment, and death among residents. In addition to other fines, a Civil Money Penalty of $220,235 was imposed by CMS, with other monetary penalties to follow until “substantial compliance is achieved or termination occurs.”
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Determining the quality and safety of the Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home where your loved one lives is essential. Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes are required to meet health and safety standards requirements and to ensure the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents. Should you have concerns about the quality of care in a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.