Says the Loss of Life at Veterans’ and Nursing Homes Demands Inquiry
The coronavirus pandemic began hitting New Jersey and Massachusetts at close to the same time, and it wasn’t long before both states were seeing a disturbing loss of life in veterans’ homes and nursing homes.
Senator Pennacchio said Massachusetts nursing home investigation demonstrates need for the Senate to convene a Legislative panel in New Jersey. (SenateNJ.com)
A half year later, Massachusetts has completed an inquiry into the problems that led to tragedy, and a grand jury has indicted several top officials from a particularly hard-hit veterans facilities.
“Massachusetts took the bull by the horns,” said Senator Joe Pennacchio, who has been calling for a Senate Select Committee to investigate the state’s handling of COVID in long-term care facilities since May. “I take no pleasure in hearing that anybody has been criminally indicted, but I am trying to get at the truth and I can’t understand why our Legislature is sitting on its hands.
“Our state has suffered such incredible loss in nursing homes, where 7,100 seniors died, and New Jersey should be leading our neighbor states in investigating what happened leading to the loss of life and how it happened,” Pennacchio continued. “While the Senate delays, people are still getting sick and dying.”
On May 22, Senate leadership announced intentions to create a special committee to investigate a series of issues related to the coronavirus crisis, including the problems in nursing and veterans’ facilities.
“That was four months ago, almost 2,500 more vulnerable seniors died, and we’re still waiting to look into it,” Pennacchio said. “Massachusetts took action to find out what went wrong. They are progressing and moving forward, but the New Jersey Legislature isn’t doing its job.
“We should have called witnesses already. We should have challenged the Administration to explain their policies and decisions,” Senator Pennacchio said. “There has been no accountability, no determination of responsibility. Questions need to be asked, and we need to hear the answers.
“An investigation with subpoena powers is necessary so we can compel testimony and determine what was done right, what was done wrong, and what we should do moving forward to ensure this never happens again,” Pennacchio said.
Pennacchio said the silence has been deafening in New Jersey, and questioned why more people aren’t demanding answers.
“Our most vulnerable citizens died. Does anybody care? Even some in the media seem to have turned a blind eye to unthinkable events inside long-term care facilities that are supposed to protect our vulnerable veterans and seniors, not expose them to deadly contagions,” said Pennacchio. “Public policy led to the loss of 7,100 souls, and at best seem to be indifferent to it. Is that the kind of society we have morphed into?”