U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-9) today reacted to the Department of Justice’s escalation of a political probe into COVID-19 deaths in public nursing homes.
“No one in their right mind would question the gravity of our nursing home crises. The devastation the virus has wrought on our seniors across the entire nation is one of the greatest tragedies in our modern history. In New Jersey, I have demanded information, answers, and accountability. Those whose incompetence caused loss of life must be fired or face criminal charges. The personnel changes at the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMAVA) and in Paramus recently announced by the Governor were an important step forward. I appreciate the inquiry being undertaken by Attorney General Grewal,” said Pascrell, who has led calls in Congress for doing more to protect long-term care facility residents during the pandemic.
The congressman continued: “The only goal must be protecting our neighbors, not using their lives as political pawns. Every day, the actions of the Justice Department under Bill Barr plumb new depths. The Department should not abuse its power and use the nursing home crisis as a political cudgel. I am demanding a federal review of public and private nursing homes by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which has jurisdiction over all long-term care facilities, to restore important regulations weakened by the Trump Administration that helped allow this crisis to take too many American lives.”
On September 23, Rep. Pascrell led 18 members of the House of Representatives excoriating the Justice Department for its politically-driven investigation into the impact of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities only in Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Pascrell has led calls for an investigation at the Paramus Veterans Home since the outset of the coronavirus crisis that has now claimed 89 resident lives and one staff member at the facility. At the urging of Pascrell and Josh Gottheimer (D-5), the federal Veterans Affairs department sent 56 health care workers to support the facility. Infectious disease experts were also sent to Paramus to prevent spread of the virus at their request in April. The two Congressmen visited the home in May and last month participated in a House Veterans Affairs Committee hearing on coronavirus and veterans homes.
Reps. Pascrell and Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ-11) have introduced the PREPARE LTC Act, which will restore regulations regarding infection control and emergency preparedness in skilled nursing facilities and nursing facilities, and the PROTECT LTC Act that will provide $100 million for increased oversight of nursing homes and would increase penalties for nursing homes that do not provide adequate protection to residents.