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June 03, 2020

Systemic issues plaguing New Jersey nursing homes amid COVID-19 crisis, study finds

Independent analysis calls for facilities to boost transparency, bolster staff and better emergency response

Senior Health Coronavirus
New Jersey nursing homes COVID-19 Edwin J. Torres/New Jersey Office of the Governor

Fundamental reforms will be put into place at nursing homes across New Jersey due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Phil Murphy says.

Widespread changes are set to be implemented at nursing homes across New Jersey after an independent study found that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed systemic issues within the longterm care industry. 

The study, released Wednesday by Gov. Phil Murphy, recommends strengthening the emergency response capacity of facilities, stabilizing nursing homes and bolstering staff, increasing transparency and accountability, and building a more resilient, higher-quality system.

The study was conducted by Manatt Health "to improve quality, safety and resilience within our long-term care system," Murphy said. He said its findings constitute "a call for us to do better." 

“We will directly and aggressively confront the challenge in our long-term care facilities,” Murphy said. “Together, we will make New Jersey a national leader and national model. I look forward to implementing these recommendations.”

Long-term care facilities have been among the hardest hit by the coronavirus. The facilities have had 33,626 COVID-19 cases and 5,232 deaths. 

Those totals account for more than 20% of the state's total cases and nearly half of its coronavirus-related deaths. The latter figure is likely higher, as about 900 deaths have not yet been confirmed as being caused by COVID-19. 

The study found long-term care facilities were hampered by the state's decision to prioritize personal protective equipment at hospitals, which were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. It also found the long-term care industry lacking in transparency and too heavily focused on profits, leaving facilities understaffed by low-wage workers. 

The study calls for the state to develop a long-term care emergency operations center to consolidate and strengthen its response against a new surge of COVID-19. Developing a forward-facing coronavirus testing plan and improving resident and family communications would strengthen future responses, the study found.

It urges facilities to boost the pay of employees and provide paid sick leave and career training. It also recommends implementing minimum staffing ratios.

The study suggests the state adopt new procedures to better monitor facility ownership and oversight. It calls for more stringent penalties against noncompliant facilities and centralizing data collection.

New Jersey reported an additional 652 coronavirus cases on Wednesday, increasing the state's total to 162,068. There were 112 new fatalities, bringing the death toll to 11,180. South Jersey has had 19,620 cases and 1,133 deaths.

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