New Jersey's 26th Legislative District

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio: Murphy Continues to Obscure Truth About Nursing Home Tragedies

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Legislative Investigation Necessary to Uncover Systemic Problems that Put Lives at Risk and Rob Residents of Dignity

Senator Joe Pennacchio called the four nursing home bills signed Wednesday by Governor Murphy “a legislative distraction that fails to address the root causes of failings that accounted for more than 7,000 deaths in nursing homes.”

Senator Pennacchio called the four nursing home bills signed Wednesday by Gov. Murphy ‘a legislative distraction that fails to address the root causes of failings that accounted for more than 7,000 deaths in nursing homes.’ (Flickr)

“The Governor continues to whitewash the systemic problems that plague facilities,” said Pennacchio. “State government policies led to the deaths of one of every 10 residents in nursing homes, and Murphy refuses to defend those decisions.”

The Governor signed the bills on the same day workers and family members protested at the Menlo Park Veterans Home, where more than 60 residents died from COVID. They called for reforms and more accountability

“It has been painfully clear from the time the first reports surfaced of inhumane conditions and mounting deaths inside senior facilities that there were significant problems with the way facilities were being operated and the ineffectiveness of state oversight and inspections,” said Pennacchio. “The bodies of New Jersey residents were being loaded into pickup trucks and piled in storage sheds. The laws signed yesterday fall far short of addressing state policy that contributed to the deaths of 7,000 seniors in our veterans and nursing homes.”

Early in the pandemic, a letter sent by the New Jersey Department of Health dated March 31 directed hospitals and nursing care facilities not to inhibit transfer of hospital patients with COVID-19 entering long-term nursing and rehabilitations facilities.

The letter, obtained by Pennacchio, also prohibited nursing homes from testing incoming patients for the virus.

“The absence of full disclosure and accountability for the ill-fated decisions and policies that led to this tragedy is indefensible,” Pennacchio said. “Clearly, this administration doesn’t want the truth to come out. He portrays the bill signings as solving the problem, but there is much work yet to be done.”

The Senator has been an outspoken critic of the Murphy Administration’s handling of the coronavirus in long-term care facilities.

Since early May, Senate Republicans have been pushing Senate Democrats to use their power as the majority party to pass legislation that would create an investigative committee with subpoena power.

“The Governor and Democrats have stonewalled efforts to get to the truth,” Pennacchio said. “Until we peel back the layers of bureaucracy to determine the facts, details and pressures that led to this incomprehensible loss of human life and decency, we are shooting in the dark. Until we understand the decisions, complications and processes and how they impacted the spread of the virus and loss of life, we cannot implement adequate reforms that will save the lives of vulnerable senior residents.”

The Senate leadership announced on May 22 that it would form a special committee to investigate a range of issues related to the coronavirus crisis. Nothing has happened since.

“It seems the Democrats have circled the wagons to protect the Governor and his Administration. It is extremely frustrating that politics is being used to stand in the way of an unbiased, fact-finding review of the nursing home system by legislators elected to represent the residents of New Jersey,” said Pennacchio.

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