MORRIS COUNTY — Senator Joe Pennacchio welcomed word that the United States Department of Justice is actively investigating the COVID tragedies inside state-run veterans’ homes, and emphasized the need for the Senate to conduct its own inquiry.
According to published reports, in announcing the launch of a civil rights investigation the feds cited the state’s lack of cooperation with an earlier analysis and concerns about the quality of care at veterans’ facilities.
“It is unfortunate that it has come down to this, that the federal government is looking into the state’s troubling incompetency. At least somebody is listening,” said Pennacchio. “Along with colleagues in the Senate Republican Caucus, I have been saying all along that the Administration’s lack of transparency was troubling and unacceptable. We now know that they were not forthcoming with federal investigators.
“I am pleased that it appears the feds were listening when we called for their involvement in letters back in June and again on September 3, but this is no substitute for the Senate Select Committee with subpoena power we have been calling for since May. These are state-run nursing homes, and state policy put the residents and healthcare workers at risk,” Pennacchio said.
Reliable estimates, and numbers cited by the DOJ in announcing the investigation, show that almost 200 residents died from COVID at two veterans’ homes operated by the New Jersey.
“One of every three residents in the homes in Paramus and the Menlo Park facility in Edison lost their lives,” Pennacchio said. “Yet the Democrats in Trenton have consistently circled the wagons to protect the administration. Republican efforts to convene a select committee to review the impact of state policy and the decisions that may have contributed to the loss of life have been stymied at every turn as the whitewash continues.”
On Tuesday, it was revealed that another resident at the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home has tested positive for the virus. Sixty residents are awaiting results from their tests, according to NorthJersey.com.
In the first wave of COVID, 89 residents died at this one facility, and more than 200 residents and workers were infected.
“This is what we wanted to avoid, and if the Senate convened our committee in May when we first called for it, I am convinced nursing homes would be better prepared for new cases this winter,” Pennacchio said. “It is imperative that we hear from testimony from the insiders who know where the system failed, and know who failed the system.
“Every week that passes without a Senate investigation only makes it more difficult to prevent large-scale loss of life in our veterans’ homes and in nursing homes across the state where more than 7,100 vulnerable seniors were lost,” said Pennacchio.