A report by an outside agency assessing New Jersey’s performance at long-term care facilities in the midst of the coronavirus was released June 3.
“COVID-19 has brought to the forefront underlying weaknesses in our long-term care system,” said Cindy Mann, Manatt Health partner who prepared the report.
“This is a call for all of us to do better,” said Gov. Phil Murphy.
The state’s COVID-19 website noted 545 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19, accounting for 33,626 of the cases, broken down between 22,575 residents and 11,051 staff. The state’s official death total was 5,076 on June 3. The facilities are reporting to the state 6,020 residents deaths and 110 staff deaths.
Murphy and the state’s Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli plan to implement a series of recommendations and actions from Manatt Health’s review to address systemic challenges at New Jersey’s long-term care facilities shown during the coronavirus pandemic and help reduce impacts of future outbreaks.
“It is a call for dramatic reforms so the long-term care industry itself can do better—including greater transparency and stronger staffing requirements—reforms critical for achieving our goal of protecting our most-vulnerable residents,” stated Murphy.
“The solutions recommended by the Manatt team provide a comprehensive and systemic approach to ensuring the safety of the residents and staff of New Jersey’s long-term care facilities.”
“These workers—and the residents who call these facilities home—need a system that supports a culture of quality, care, and infection prevention.” said Persichilli.
The report, completed after 50 interviews with various shareholders including employees in the state’s Department of Health, outline four key recommendations:
- Strengthen Emergency Response Capacity
- Stabilize Facilities and Bolster Workforce
- Increase Transparency and Accountability
- Build a More Resilient and Higher Quality System
To strengthen response, the report recommends to consolidating response through a central emergency operations center to coordinate all activity and communications for nursing homes and long-term care facilities. The operations would obtain real-time input regarding such issues as staffing and supplies in order to address operational issues.
In order to stabilize facilities and bolster workforce, staffers should have access to paid sick leave, increased pay and implementing minimum staffing ratios for direct care while strengthening training and career development opportunities.
Operators will be asked to implement stronger mechanisms to ensure a greater degree of accountability and increase transparency through data and reporting. Among the recommendations are new procedures improving oversight of and increasing penalties for nursing homes as well as centralizing long-term care data collection and processing.