TRENTON, N.J. – Almost half of all state deaths related to Covid-19 have occurred in nursing homes. Seventy-four percent of all nursing homes and long-term care facilities have reported viral outbreaks.
“The number of cases and deaths occurring at long-term care facilities and veterans homes make it very clear how underequipped they are to handle and respond to a viral outbreak like the coronavirus,” said Dancer (R-Ocean).
Despite a state law that went into effect in February that requires nursing homes to have outbreak response plans that include policies regarding notifying residents, staff and families, there have been numerous complaints about their lack of communication.
In an effort to better understand the response of these facilities, make recommendations for future infectious disease outbreaks, and investigate the ability to care for people at home, Assemblyman Ron Dancer introduced a bill Friday (A4015) establishing the “Long-Term Care Facility Infectious Disease Preparedness and Home Health Care Study Commission.”
“It’s not enough to just understand what went wrong and why, but we need to prevent such tragedies from ever occurring again,” explained Dancer.
Infectious disease policies and procedures, staffing protocols, and response methods will be examined by the 15-member commission.
“We owe the residents of our veterans homes our freedom, but the system in place has failed to protect them,” said Dancer. “When there is a virus as contagious as the coronavirus, we need to look at ways we can properly care for people at their own homes. How do we retain more home health aides? How do we encourage home health care? The commission will look into all those questions and make recommendations.”
At the state’s veterans homes, 327 of the 696 residents have tested positive for Covid-19. Ninety-eight percent of the residents of the New Jersey Veterans Memorial Home in Paramus have either tested positive for the coronavirus, are awaiting test results, or are currently hospitalized. Sixty-two of their residents have died. In the veterans home in Menlo Park, 50 residents have died and 132 have tested positive for the virus.
The commission would need to prepare and submit a report to the governor and legislature within a year.