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What is the State doing to protect residents and staff at nursing homes or long-term care facilities?
COVID-19 has devastated long-term care facilities and nursing homes in New Jersey and across the nation. In an effort to protect the lives of residents and staff at these facilities, the State has taken a number aggressive measures including:
- Requiring that all facility residents and staff be tested no later than May 26 with additional follow-up testing required no more than one week later.
- Curtailing visitation on March 14, and requiring screening for symptoms and temperature checks of all individuals who enter the facilities.
- Developing an expanded universal testing strategy
- In partnership with the VA, universal baseline testing of all residents and staff has been completed at all three veterans memorial homes – Paramus, Menlo Park, and Vineland
- Increasing the personal protective equipment (PPE) available to these facilities. As of May 5, the State has shipped nearly 11 million pieces of PPE to long-term care facilities.
- Allowing facilities to hire out-of-state, certified nurse aides to support staffing vacancies
- Enforcing mandatory notification of residents, families and staff of an outbreak in their facilities, and requiring universal masking
- Prohibiting admissions to facilities that could not cohort patients and staff
- Deploying over 300 New Jersey National Guard members to long-term care facilities to provide additional staffing and support
- An additional 40 VA clinical staff will be coming to New Jersey as part of strike force teams to help at our long-term care centers
- Using the Department of Human Services' Medicaid transportation provider to assist in getting COVID-positive residents at long-term care facilities to and from the hospital
- Requiring facilities to confirm mandated updates to their outbreak prevention plans
In addition, the State is working to support facilities during this health crisis. In April, State surveyors inspected 60 facilities to examine infection control procedures, staffing levels, the availability of PPE, and outbreak response plans -- which includes family notification.
In several instances, surveys resulted in the issuance of directed plans of correction and some facilities were directed to bring on consultants in nursing and infection control.
For additional support in the immediate days ahead as well as for years to come, the State has engaged a team of experts with national experience to conduct a rapid review of the State's 575 long-term care facilities to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and reduce impacts of future outbreaks.
The team will produce a set of recommendations for the New Jersey Department of Health and long-term care facilities, as well as advise on potential state or federal action to improve quality, safety, and resilience within New Jersey's long-term care system.
These recommendations will guide how long-term care facilities can safely reopen for residents and staff after the current COVID-19 outbreak and address mitigation, protection, and resiliency against future outbreaks. The Department of Health will continue implementing protocols, inspections, and testing at all long-term care facilities while this review takes place
Meanwhile, in response to the significant number of deaths and disturbing complaints about these facilities, on April 16, the New Jersey Attorney General's Office opened an investigation into the state's long-term care facilities.
If you have first-hand knowledge of illegal activity or other misconduct at a nursing home or a long-term care facility during the COVID-19 outbreak, please fill out this online reporting form (covid19.nj.gov/ltc) from the New Jersey Attorney General's Office.