Authorities in New Jersey are investigating the state’s largest nursing home site after dozens of residents died, many from the coronavirus.
More than a dozen of the deceased residents were being kept in a small holding room in the facility before they were removed with the assistance of law-enforcement officials Monday, said Chaim Scheinbaum, chief executive at Alliance Healthcare, which owns the facility.
Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday he was “outraged the bodies of the dead were allowed to pile up in a makeshift morgue at the facility.”
The governor asked Attorney General Gurbir Grewal to investigate what happened at the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II in Andover, N.J., while also looking more broadly at long-term care facilities where a disproportionate number of people have died from Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat whose congressional district includes Andover, said the administrator of the Andover Subacute facility contacted him over the weekend asking for personal protective equipment and body bags.
“Every few hours they were losing an individual to the virus,” Mr. Gottheimer said. “These numbers keep spreading like wildfire.”
The Pandemic in the Tri-State Region
Mr. Scheinbaum said in statements that the site medical director was in control at all times and that staff remained in contact with local emergency-management authorities. He said there were a total of 15 bodies in the site’s holding room Monday, a day when eight people died, and that 13 of the deceased were removed before midnight with the assistance of police.
“The owners, administrators and our heroic health-care staff of nurses and nurse aides have been working relentlessly to contain the virus and safeguard our residents and staff,” he said.
The Andover site includes two buildings. One is licensed for 514 beds, and another is licensed for 159, according to state health officials. As of April 15, there were 539 residents in the entire facility, state officials said.
County and state officials offered differing tallies for the number of people affected by the outbreak at the site. Sussex County officials said Thursday that as of April 15, 57 people had died at the larger building, 26 of whom had tested positive for Covid-19. The state Department of Health said there had been 35 deaths at both buildings and 19 of them were linked to the coronavirus.
County and state health officials didn’t respond to requests seeking clarification on the discrepancies.
An additional 103 residents at the facility have tested positive for Covid-19, state health officials said Thursday, and 52 staff members are reporting flu-like symptoms.
On March 29, the Sussex County Division of Health alerted state health officials that there was an outbreak of Covid-19 at the nursing home, county officials said. Sussex’s Office of Emergency Management has made several deliveries of masks, gowns, hand sanitizer and other equipment, county officials said.
Nursing homes across the U.S. are struggling to contain the spread of the deadly virus. The problem has been particularly acute in New Jersey, where 379 long-term care facilities, including nursing homes, have at least one confirmed case of Covid-19. A total of 8,209 cases have been reported at these facilities.
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Mr. Gottheimer said the Andover facility is understaffed and that the crisis is continuing. He said he has asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to send doctors, nurses and medics to assist and has also requested help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Mr. Scheinbaum said there are currently enough employees on-site, including 12 nurses and 39 nursing assistants, which he said is close to typical staffing levels, along with other administrative personnel.
State health officials have notified the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which administers the Medicare program. The federal agency was in Andover surveying the facility Thursday, state health officials said.
The federal government’s Medicare site rates the first Subacute and Rehabilitation facility with three out of five stars, meaning average, while rating the larger one with just one star, meaning “much below average.”
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