Senator Joe Pennacchio called for a bipartisan legislative oversight hearing to be held to review the New Jersey Department of Health’s pandemic response after Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said yesterday she would be willing to participate.
Health Commissioner Persichilli refused to attend a March 5 hearing chaired by Sen. Joe Pennacchio where veterans home residents and families who lost loved ones in nursing homes were hoping for answers. (NJ Senate Republicans/Facebook)
“It’s been over a year since I first called for a bipartisan committee to look into directives issued by the Murphy administration and the Department of Health that led to thousands of deaths in our nursing homes,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “Yesterday, Commissioner Persichilli said publicly during a budget hearing that she’d be willing to testify in a bipartisan oversight hearing. I urge my colleagues in the Senate Democratic Majority to waste no time in scheduling the comprehensive hearing that the Health Commissioner has finally agreed to attend.”
Pennacchio first called for legislative oversight of the Murphy administration’s pandemic response in early May of last year. On May 11, 2020, he introduced a resolution to create a bipartisan Senate Select Committee on the Executive Branch’s Response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Democrats continued to stall action, Pennacchio led a series of independent hearings this March to examine the administration’s efforts, including a hearing focused on management failures and tragic directives that led to massive outbreaks and thousands of deaths in New Jersey’s nursing homes and veterans homes.
Commissioner Persichilli and Democrat legislators declined an invitation to participate in the March 5 hearing, which included facility residents, advocates, and family members who were looking for answers.
When questioned at a budget hearing yesterday by Senator Michael Testa (R-1) on her refusal to participate in the independent hearing, the commissioner said, “We’re ready to appear before bipartisan committees any time one is put together.”
Video of Testa’s exchange with Commissioner Persichilli begins approximately 02:06:30 into the budget hearing.
Given the many difficulty families and legislators have had in getting straight answers from the Commissioner since the pandemic began, Pennacchio called on the Senate President to schedule the hearing.
“For too long, Commissioner Persichilli’s idea of transparency has been a thick fog,” added Pennacchio. “We can no longer ignore the silent screams of the 10,000 dead in our nursing homes who deserve answers. I urge Senate President Sweeney to take Commissioner Persichilli up on her offer and schedule the bipartisan oversight hearing that thousands of families have been demanding for more than a year.”
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