Following a joint meeting of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and the Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee to discuss a package of bills related to care in the state’s long-term care facilities, Senator Kristin Corrado voiced concern about the continuing risks to vulnerable residents during the ongoing pandemic.
Senator Corrado voiced concern about the continuing risks to vulnerable residents during the ongoing pandemic and renewed calls for a Senate Select Committee to investigate problems that led to the loss of 7,000 nursing home residents. (Flickr)
“The Health Committee’s action today is a first step that will help us to begin to address the needs of LTC facility residents, but it’s clear we don’t have all of the tools at our disposal to fully investigate the tragic loss of life that has occurred or to ensure that the administration’s policy failures have been remedied,” said Corrado (R-40). “To fully understand the decisions that led to the disaster within the walls of the state’s nursing homes and to develop all of the necessary reforms demands a special investigative committee with subpoena power.
“The select committee my Republican colleagues and I have been calling for since May would possess the tools and authority necessary to expose weaknesses within the long-term care system and identify shortcomings that contributed to the shocking loss of life,” continued Corrado. “We can’t possibly hope to solve the problems without an in-depth, behind-the-scenes investigation and a thorough understanding of what went right, and what went so horribly wrong.”
Corrado joined the entire Senate Republican caucus on a letter to Senate President Steve Sweeney on May 13 calling for the creation of a select committee to study the state response to the pandemic and to improve preparedness in the future.
“Today’s hearing is no substitute for the select committee review we seek, but it effectively highlighted exactly why a much deeper dive is necessary,” said Corrado. “Subpoena power is essential to compel testimony from administration and industry officials, and we must have appropriate protections in place for the whistleblowers who desperately want to tell what they saw and experienced as the fatal virus spread through the isolated facilities. Without these invaluable tools, we will never understand the extent of failings behind the locked doors of these facilities.”
In follow-up letters to Sweeney on May 20, May 29 and June 2, Republican senators renewed the call for legislative action. The Senate President announced the creation of the select committee on May 22 but beyond a press release, there hasn’t been further action.
The Republicans urged the Senate President to stop delaying action and offered to take the lead on the select committee in another communication on July 21.
“During today’s hearing, we heard some compelling testimony about heart-breaking failures at our veterans’ homes that deserves further investigation,” said Corrado. “Unfortunately, the well-intentioned format of today’s joint committee meeting was not conducive to the deep discovery necessary to prevent another disaster of this proportion in the future.
“The family members of deceased residents deserve an opportunity to have their stories heard, and the nursing home workers deserve a forum to express themselves. This preventable tragedy demands more than we could hope to achieve with today’s meeting,” said Corrado. “New Jersey’s nursing home residents remain at significant risk.”
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