A published report stating that as the coronavirus gained a foothold, the health commissioner was reluctant to send state inspectors into nursing homes because they didn’t have sufficiently protective masks prompted outrage from Senator Joe Pennacchio.
“There are no words to explain it, no way to justify it,” said Pennacchio (R-26). “The department essentially washed its hands of the problem, protecting its own experts at the expense of nursing home residents and workers who were left to their own devises to contend with the deadly outbreak. The laissez faire approach turned some facilities into ‘death homes’ for fragile senior citizens.”
The public learned there was something horribly wrong when an anonymous tip to police cited dead bodies piling up at Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in Andover, N.J.
Officers found 17 bodies, and The New York Times reported a post on the facility’s Facebook page, later deleted, said: “To all the people calling into the governor’s office, the congressman’s office to help us tell them WE NEED HELP.”
“People were desperate. Residents, family members, and staff, they all knew the situation was out of control,” said Pennacchio. “What they couldn’t know was inspectors who may have helped were not coming because nursing home environments were too dangerous. The message from the Administration to nursing homes was clear: ‘Fend for yourself. We are not putting the state’s workers at risk.’
“As we now know, the situation would spiral out of control across the state. This unexplainable policy from the Administration delivered a death sentence to 6,000 New Jersey residents,” said Pennacchio. “Worse, patients were left to die alone and scared in fear-filled isolation.
“In the past, this state has had a select committee to examine traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge, yet the voices of 6,000 dead souls are still going out to be heard,” Pennacchio concluded. “I am calling for the immediate formation and meeting of a Select Senate Committee with subpoena power to get answers and justice for the victims and their families.”