Senator Joe Pennacchio slammed the Murphy Administration's handling of State-run veterans homes following a report issued by the State of New Jersey Commission of Investigation (SCI) that revealed insufficient care for residents at memorial homes at Menlo Park and Paramus.
"Once again, another investigative body illustrates how this administration failed our veterans. From the start of the pandemic, hundreds of American heroes have died due to inadequate medical care and a lack of effective management and oversight," said Pennacchio (R-26). "After three years of Democrats in the Legislature stonewalling calls for a comprehensive investigation, it is now time to hold this administration accountable for the immense harm done to veterans."
In a September report, the DOJ found that veterans' constitutional rights were violated as a result of insufficient infection control practices, inadequate medical care, and a lack of management and oversight which subjected residents of these veterans homes to serious and often deadly infections.
The SCI report (PDF) underscored the DOJ's findings and highlighted how staffing issues, lack of protective equipment, and communication breakdowns contributed to a disastrous outcome for many residents.
Although Pennacchio supported the SCI's investigation, he said there were still many serious questions that went unanswered in its report.
"The veterans homes in Menlo Park and Paramus both had inadequate PPE, but according to the SCI, the veterans home in Vineland had 'a warehouse full of equipment with no shortages.' If that was the case, why didn't the Vineland facility share some of its supplies with its northern counterparts?"
"The report also mentioned that a woman had to beg the staff at Menlo Park to test her mother for COVID. Why were the facilities so resistant to testing?" Pennacchio asked. "Why did the report not examine the directive from then State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli that prohibited facilities from testing hospitalized residents for COVID prior to readmission? Why were nursing homes forced to take back COVID positive residents? Why did the report fail to mention Persichilli's offer to resign after employees in her own department criticized her response to COVID? We need answers to these questions and many others. This is why for nearly four years I've been calling for a legislative committee with subpoena power."
Since 2020, Pennacchio has been calling for a special legislative investigation to be conducted by the Legislature to examine the management and policy failures that led to hundreds of unnecessary deaths in the State-run veterans homes and thousands of deaths in the 500 nursing homes and assisted living facilities during the pandemic.
He sponsors a resolution, SR-32, that would form a special legislative committee with subpoena power to conduct the investigation. On six separate occasions since May of 2020, Senate Democrats have blocked efforts by Pennacchio and Senate Republicans to bring his resolution up for a vote.
"Every nursing home and assisted living facility in this state was affected in some way by the Murphy Administration's disastrous COVID policies. The residents that were in these facilities have families, and they deserve answers," Pennacchio said. "Does anyone in Trenton truly care about our elderly? Because after nearly four years of inaction, it sure doesn't seem like it. New Jerseyans deserve so much better."