Families and officials push for greater transparency at long-term care facilities

Families who lost loved ones in New Jersey’s long-term care facilities want action and answers from the state.
Of the 21,757 COVID-19-related deaths reported in New Jersey, 37% of them were at these facilities.
The deaths and the facilities’ handling of illnesses among residents is prompting some to demand reform on transparency.
Francesca Veen lost her beloved grandmother in November to a staph infection while she was living in the Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center -- formerly named as one of the Andover Subacute rehab facilities.
“I’ve watched these people destroy her mentally and physically,” Veen says.
Veen made an emotional Facebook video about her grandmother, who developed the infection from an untreated bed sore. The video has been viewed more than 18,000 times.
“They would completely ignore phone calls, like just let it ring. Didn’t matter how many times you called, they just let it ring hours. It would just be like that,” Veen says.
The Sussex County Board of County Commissioners announced this week that it is pushing for an investigation into the Murphy administration over its handling of the many deaths out of long-term care facilities.
“There are no words of comfort that we can offer for the injustice that happened, but what we can do is we can promise that we won’t rest until we uncover what happened. Because if we can prevent something like this ever happening again, that has to be the end goal,” says director Dawn Fantasia.
The commissioners have sent Open Public Records Act (OPRA) requests to the governor’s office since last May and say that the state has stalled on these requests for transparency into what happened at the facilities.
Veen says that justice will be served when these facilities close.
“I’ll give my praise and clapping and everything when the place shuts down. Right now, that’s not happening,” she says.
The county is also working on adding a ballot question for the next general election asking Sussex County residents if they'd like to see an investigation into the state's handling of the deaths out of these facilities. The state has not returned News 12 New Jersey’s request for comment.