New Jersey's 26th Legislative District

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Families Asking: What Effect Did State Policies Have on Nursing Home Deaths

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Pennacchio: Power to Subpoena Witnesses and Compel Testimony is Vital

With the State facing at least two new lawsuits for the deaths of elderly residents in nursing homes during the pandemic, Senator Joe Pennacchio today denounced the Legislature for failing to investigate the loss of almost 10,000 lives in senior facilities.

With the State facing at least two new lawsuits for the deaths of elderly residents in nursing homes during the pandemic, Sen. Joe Pennacchio today denounced the Legislature for failing to investigate the loss of almost 10,000 lives in senior facilities. (SenateNJ.com)

According to a report published on NewJerseyMonitor.com, lawsuits filed by the families of two nursing home residents who died from the virus blame the Administration for “violating nursing home residents’ civil rights and creating dangerous conditions.”

“The legal filings cite many of the concerns we’ve been voicing since early in the pandemic,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “Two years after first calling on the Senate to look into COVID’s devastating impact on long-term care facilities, the fog of reticence continues to obscure any hint of transparency or accountability.

“Unfortunately, the truth will remain buried until the Legislature steps up. A bipartisan Senate Select Committee with subpoena power to compel testimony is the only way the facts and details will come out,” Pennacchio continued.

“The Senate should have acted when I first called for an investigation  in May 2020, when COVID has already claimed 4,800 elderly residents,” said Pennacchio. “So much time was wasted.”

That was only the first of many attempts by Pennacchio and the Senate Republicans to persuade Senate Leadership to act. Despite a May 22, 2020, press release issued by the Senate President at the time stating the Senate would establish a special committee, nothing materialized.

Pennacchio immediately renewed continuing efforts to convene a Select Committee, but as they had on five separate occasions over 19 months, the Senate Democrats blocked his attempts to bring his resolution, SR-68, up for a Senate vote.

In December 2021, the Murphy Administration confirmed a $53 million settlement with 119 families of veterans’ home residents who died during the pandemic.

“We’ve all seen enough stalling and foot-dragging,” said Pennacchio.

The Senator tried in vain to get the Administration to respond through four separate OPRA requests seeking details of the State’s settlement with the families of veterans’ home victims.

“Paramount to the State’s pre-settlement discussion is this question: What impact did state policy have on the nursing home deaths? We’re still waiting for answers,” Pennacchio said.

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