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Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center in Andover. (Photo: NJ Elder Ombudsman).

Murphy wants state to assume control of Andover nursing home

Judge must decide if appointment of receiver is warranted

By David Wildstein, May 25 2022 1:24 pm

Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Tuesday evening that the state will move to take over the embattled Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center at Andover, a Sussex County nursing home which became notorious in 2020 for its high Covid death rate, amid a surge in Omicron variant Covid cases.

“It has become crystal clear that the people running this nursing home refuse to take responsibility for the people in their care,” Murphy said.  “New Jersey will not tolerate long-term care facility operators who cannot provide the care our most vulnerable residents need and deserve.”

The state will ask a Superior Court Judge to appoint a receiver to assume operational control of the privately-owned facility, formerly known as the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation, which has been cited for significant health and safety violations.

“Our state agencies will employ the greatest authority we have to prevent these operators from continuing to place the residents of this nursing home in jeopardy, and will work towards ensuring a continuation of care on behalf of the more than 360 individuals in this home,” Murphy said.

Atlantic Health Systems was picked in March to serve as the state’s monitor.

“Conditions at Woodland remain poor for the residents who live there and for the dedicated direct care staff who work there,” said Laurie Brewer, the state Long-term Care Ombudsman.  “The people living at Woodland deserve capable, committed leadership from facility operators who value their autonomy, dignity and quality of life, yet current leadership has clearly failed to even marginally turn things around. I applaud the state for taking this necessary step.”

The nursing home  entered the national spotlight after 17 residents who had died of Covid were discovered in a makeshift morgue in April 2020.  A Star-Ledger investigation found, however, that the facility had been troubled for years before that due to staffing shortages and inadequate care.

Earlier this year, Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-Wyckoff) asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to launch an investigation.  A previous probe made at Gottheimer request in 2020 found that the facility was “not in substantial compliance” with federal regulations.

“I refuse to stand by while Jersey seniors are put at risk. It’s clear that investigations, fines, and promises of improvement from the current owners of Andover Subacute haven’t been enough. After I sounded the alarm earlier this year, I’m glad to see New Jersey now moving forward to change control at the facility,” Gottheimer said.  “Families should have confidence that older relatives and veterans will be well cared for in their later years, whether residing in private or state-run long-term care facilities.”

Assembly Aging and Senior Services Committee Chair Angela McKnight (D-Jersey City) applauded Murphy’s decision.

“The situation at Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center is completely unacceptable,” she said.  “Residents rely on the facility to provide a safe environment and quality long-term care, but those in charge have continued to fail them despite intervention from the state.”

This story was updated at 2:56 PM with comment from Gottheimer.

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