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Outside consulting firm finds wide-ranging deficiencies in state’s nursing homes

Facilities unprepared for pandemic, Manatt Health says

Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

New Jersey’s nursing homes will need wide-ranging reforms to prepare for another pandemic, according to a report compiled by the consulting firm Manatt Health and released by Politico New Jersey.

The report, commissioned in early May, found the state’s nursing homes were unprepared for the COVID-19 crisis, citing long-standing staffing shortages and low staffing ratios and adding that the facilities and the state did not have an adequate plan to respond to a pandemic.

The homes, Manatt said, were largely siloed off from the rest of the state’s health care systems, and communications between nursing homes and hospitals often broke down, depriving officials of information related to admissions and discharges of COVID-19-positive patients.

Their capacity to gather information about COVID-19 cases in their facilities was lacking, the report said, and the deficiencies often prevented nursing homes from collecting and sharing information sought by state health officials.

Further, many of New Jersey’s retirement facilities are aging ones. Some have three or four beds to a room, a practice the consulting firm said made residents in such homes more vulnerable to the virus, which has killed at least 5,004 residents and staff members at the state’s long-term care centers.

That figure includes nursing home deaths as well as those from other long-term care facilities, though Manatt’s report focused on skilled nursing facilities, nursing facilities and special care nursing facilities.

The report went on to say that the state lacked a preparedness plan related to the distribution of personal protective equipment and the replacement of sick nursing home staffers.

Communication between nursing homes and residents’ families was similarly lacking, the report said.

The scathing report is likely to cause headaches for Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration, which was already facing fire from Republican lawmakers over its handling of long-term care centers.

New Jersey ranks second in the nation for COVID-19 deaths. Close to 12,000 have died here since the first known virus case was identified in early March, the number of new virus cases have begun to ebb over the last few weeks.

That means long-term care facilities account for more than 40% of New Jersey’s virus-related deaths, and Republicans have made calls for investigations into the state’s handling of the crisis for weeks now.

The report urged the creation of a stronger emergency response plan, the hiring of additional nursing home staff and increased oversight of the facilities, among other measures.

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