|TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly Republican caucus sent a letter (click here for PDF) to Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin Thursday supporting a select committee with subpoena power to investigate the loss of life in New Jersey’s long-term care facilities.
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Speaker Coughlin:
Please allow this letter to serve as our formal request to create a bipartisan special investigative committee with subpoena power to review the state’s handling of nursing homes during the Covid-19 pandemic.
We are troubled by a recent investigation regarding the Health Department’s handling of the situation in nursing homes. Among some of the more disconcerting issues outlined in this investigation were delays associated with testing, nursing home inspections, and the deployment of the National Guard, the redirection of personal protective gear away from these facilities, the failure to investigate cross-contamination of homes, and the lack of information provided to family members about their loved ones.
We are all saddened by our constituents’ stories of lost loved ones at these facilities. More than 40 percent of the deaths in this state have occurred at long-term care facilities, a figure which probably underestimates the true impact. Nearly one in 13 residents in New Jersey facilities, those most vulnerable, have died from the pandemic. These figures also do not take into consideration those workers who were also infected or died during the outbreak.
It is important to begin to review the actions of these facilities and the state, determine what needs to be remedied, and strategize on how to prepare these facilities and protect our residents before another coronavirus wave or emergency hits.
These facilities need to do more to protect its residents. Many of our constituents have complained administrators did not follow the law as the coronavirus outbreak worsened, initially failing to inform patients and families of residents testing positive for Covid-19. However, the blame does not lie solely on a few nursing home operators. In fact, the facility with the most deaths in New Jersey is the state-run Veterans Memorial Home in Paramus, and the responsibility to ensure our state’s laws and protocols are enforced lies on the state Department of Health.
Since the Open Public Records Act cannot be used to evaluate the state’s records on the handling of nursing homes and many other issues related to the pandemic, a committee with subpoena power is the only way to make the administration’s decisions public and transparent. The administration has already denied requests for information on nursing home health inspection reports, state contracts with laboratories and consultants, and personal protective gear data, hospital capacity, and ventilator use. The public has a right to know how its government is handling this emergency.
Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation. We welcome the opportunity to move forward in a truly bipartisan fashion to address this situation and provide meaningful measures to help protect our constituents.