NJ state senator: Feds should take over long-term care facilities
On the heels of media reports detailing a scathing letter reportedly from state employees that reveals "shortcomings" in New Jersey's response to the COVID-19 public health crisis, a Republican state senator is calling on the federal government to take control of New Jersey's long-term care facilities.
"New Jersey's administration has proven to be ineffective, impotent, and a threat to those who live, work, and visit these facilities," reads a letter from Sen. Joe Pennacchio, R-Morris, to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
"Career public health officials are risking their livelihoods and screaming out for an investigation of their own workplace where they believe incompetence and corruption permeate," Pennacchio's letter says. "Family and friends who have sadly lost a loved need answers as to why the government failed them in their greatest time of need."
Pennacchio's concerns stem from a letter sent to state lawmakers by anonymous state Department of Health employees. The letter, published by NJ.com, pointed to "unmitigated failures in long term care" that "are now public knowledge" — attributed to the health commissioner's failure to hear and respond to employees' concerns. The letter specifically mentions "the failure to allocate PPE to nursing homes," and Commissioner Judith Persichilli's "order to make long-term facilities take residents back from hospitals, even without negative tests."
The letter from "members of the NJ Pandemic Response Team" suggested that a lack of action, along with a focus on areas that media considered most important, resulted in unpreventable deaths.
Pennacchio's letter implored Verma to use her authority and other federal resources that may be needed to "thoroughly investigate and take control of New Jersey's long-term nursing facilities."
"It can't be any worse than what's going on now," Pennacchio told New Jersey 101.5.
When asked about Pennacchio's letter during his Tuesday media briefing on the pandemic, Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said he and Pennacchio can't find much "common ground" on most things, including this issue.
Murphy's latest update revealed a total of 5,158 lab-confirmed COVID-19 fatalities at New Jersey long-term care facilities. New Jersey has lost 11,770 lives to the respiratory illness.
Also responding to the accusations of dysfunction, a group of Senate Republicans wrote a letter to Senate President Steve Sweeney urging letters be sent to the DOH and appropriate parties who may be possession of evidence in matters that may be reviewed by a bipartisan committee focusing on the state's recovery from the pandemic.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.