TRENTON, N.J. – The Assembly unanimously passed a bill sponsored by Asm. Christopher P. DePhillips creating a new resource center in the state health department to better prepare for and coordinate responses to public health emergencies like the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The needless loss of lives in our state’s long term care facilities requires us to learn the hard lessons taught by the failures of the pandemic response,” said Assemblyman DePhillips (R-Bergen). “The solutions provided in this bill will serve to honor those lives and as a major improvement in how New Jersey cares for its seniors and those who care for them.”
The Long-Term Care Emergency Operations Center established by the bill (A4476) would consult with the Office of Emergency Management to develop plans to prepare for responses and help coordinate plans throughout the state. The bill requires nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to have plans and, if another public health emergency occurs, to separate positive residents and carefully monitor admissions and readmissions.
“This will be a major improvement in the future compared to the state’s disastrous response to Covid-19 in long-term care facilities,” said DePhillips. “Nearly 7,000 senior citizens lost their lives because of mismanagement and poor decisions by the Department of Health. Next time this happens, the state will be better prepared.”
As of August 24, there have been more than 6,700 reported resident deaths at long-term care facilities. The Manatt report on the state’s long term care facilities and the administration’s delayed response to the pandemic in the system stated nursing homes were not adequately tied to the larger system of care and did not have strong communications and protocols with emergency departments. This bill incorporates several of the report’s recommendations by requiring the establishment of an emergency operations center and attempting to improve response efforts to future outbreaks.