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Senator Joe Pennacchio

Senator Joe Pennacchio

Pennacchio Silenced in Push to Move Legislation Creating Investigation of Nursing Home Deaths

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Senator Joe Pennacchio’s efforts to speak in support of Democrat Senator Nia H. Gill’s motion to a relieve resolution SR-48 from committee was silenced after Senate Democrats moved to table the motion and the Senate President prevented comments.

Sen. Joe Pennacchio’s efforts to speak in support of Democrat Sen. Nia H. Gill’s motion to a relieve resolution SR-48 from committee was silenced after Senate Democrats moved to table the motion and the Senate President prevented comments. (SenateNJ.com)

Pennacchio and Gill are sponsors of the measure that would establish a on oversight committee with subpoena power to investigate New Jersey’s response to the pandemic in nursing homes.

“I am outraged and disappointed that we were once again prevented from even discussing this effort to scrutinize the policies and factors that may have contributed to the death toll in long-term facilities,” said Pennacchio. “Like the voices of family members clamoring for answers, my voice, and the voices of my Senate colleagues, were silenced today.

“The public has a right to know what happened in the veterans’ homes and nursing homes. They want to know what’s going on here,” said Pennacchio (R-26).

The silencing of the Senator “speaks volumes,” Pennacchio said. “What is this Administration hiding, and why are they being protected?”

Included below are the prepared remarks Senator Pennacchio was prevented from sharing on the Senate floor:

Thank you, Mr. Senate President. I rise in support of this motion and would ask my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to do so as well.  In all my years as a legislator, I have never been so proud to associate myself with a piece of bi-partisan legislation as I am with this one today.  I thank Senator Gill for her leadership on this vital issue.

Early in the Covid pandemic, questions immediately arose as to the state’s public health policy and it’s handling of Covid, particularly when it came to nursing homes.  To be fair, this was a pandemic the likes of which we had not seen since 1918.  However, to also be fair to the 10,000 dead souls that died in nursing homes, common sense and accepted historical medical practices had been neglected and believe it or not – avoided.

Two years ago, in May of 2020 then Senate President Sweeney announced his willingness to have an oversight committee with subpoena powers.  At that time less than 5,000 of our frail and elderly had died in nursing homes.  Two years later and 10,000 dead, we are still waiting! The court system which is notoriously slow has surpassed this legislative body in speed in trying to find the truth through civil actions. 

Last December, the administration admitted as much with a $50 million settlement with the families of the victims at the Paramus Veterans Nursing Home.  The veterans nursing homes are of particular interest because they are totally controlled by the state.  The same state that encouraged nursing homes to contact them for help with the implementation of their health care Covid policies.  Obviously, the state never gave itself the memo.

Central to the past, and I am sure future, litigation will be how vital to the argument was the effect that state policy had on the deaths of 10,000 frail and elderly trapped in those nursing homes.  There are silent screams crying out for answers.

  • Why were nursing homes forced to take in Covid patients, a communicable disease with little chance of isolation in a nursing facility?
  • Why were nursing homes prohibited from even testing to see if incoming residents were infected?
  • What professional and medical thought from the commissioner of health and the state epidemiologist went into the march 2020 edict?
  • New York and New Jersey’s memorandums were almost identical, with New York’s being issued one week prior.  Was New Jersey playing follow the leader?
  • Why didn’t New Jersey utilize the USS Comfort and the Javits Center more fully? Did we ask to use their staff, their PPE’s?
  • Why has there been a concerted effort to avoid answering questions, answering OPRA inquiries and addressing transparency to this vital issue?

It is a shame that two years after the bodies started piling up that this senate has not had the courage to look into our public health policies and determine what we did well and more importantly what we could have done better. This body, along with myself had an oversight committee to investigate Bridgegate – Bridgegate where no one died. Pause just a second and listen.  Listen to those 10,000 silent screams. 

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