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State Sen. Kristin Corrado. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

GOP senators say Murphy using Manatt report as political cover

Corrado: ‘Report isn’t worth its $5000 per page price tag’

By Nikita Biryukov, June 03 2020 2:51 pm

A group of Republican senators attacked Gov. Phil Murphy over an outside report into the handling of the COVID-19 crisis within the state’s nursing homes that was commissioned by the administration.

“The Murphy Administration paid a consulting firm $500,000 to rush a report that attempts to shift blame for thousands of nursing home deaths to anyone but the governor,” State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-Franklin) said. “What taxpayers received back is a glossy report that repackages the State’s data in colorful graphs and charts. The report glosses over the fact that the administration forced our LTC facilities to admit COVID-19 patients, which led to thousands of deaths.”

The order for long-term care centers to accept COVID-19 positive patients also ordered officials at such facilities to segregate infected patients from the general population. Health officials have attributed much of the virus’s spread in such facilities to asymptomatic staff members.

The report, which was drafted by Manatt Health, found wide-ranging deficiencies that made the state’s nursing homes woefully unprepared for a pandemic.

Among other things, it found New Jersey had no plan in place to distribute personal protective equipment to nursing homes and similar facilities in the early days of the crisis and pointed to a breakdown in communications between such facilities and state officials.

“The administration paid a consultant to write a report at taxpayer expense that advocates for the governor’s policy agenda while shifting blame for the governor’s bad choices,” said State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon (R-Little Silver).

“I wish I could say I’m shocked. It’s undeniable that our long-term care facilities warned that they didn’t have sufficient supplies of PPE or the ability to manage the highly infectious patients that the Department of Health was forcing them to accept from hospitals,” he said. “By failing to address these simple truths, this rushed report was irrelevant the second it was released.”

New Jersey was sorely lacking personal protective equipment early into the crisis and prioritized delivering such materials to hospitals at the time.

The report follows nearly a week of questions over the firing of Department of Health Assistant Commissioner Chris Neuwirth.

He was in charge of public health infrastructure, laboratories and emergency preparedness, and Gov. Phil Murphy has repeatedly declined to comment on his firing, citing a policy that bars comment on personnel issues.

“We have documented evidence of the orders from the Department of Health that delivered a wildfire of infection into the vulnerable population of our nursing homes, reports of a key figure being fired and perhaps scapegoated, and damning new claims from whistleblowers within the administration,” State Sen. Kristin Corrado (R-Totowa) said. “There is nothing in the report that addresses any of those concerns or lessens my belief that we need a thorough legislative review with the power to subpoena witnesses. Frankly, the Manatt report isn’t worth its $5000 per page price tag.”

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