Lawmakers consider 11 bills designed to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities

New Jersey lawmakers are considering a package of 11 bills designed to prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities in the state.

News 12 Staff

Aug 13, 2020, 11:37 PM

Updated 1,340 days ago

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New Jersey lawmakers are considering a package of 11 bills designed to prevent further COVID-19 outbreaks at long-term care facilities in the state.
A reported 6,690 residents of these facilities have died from the virus as of Thursday, according to state health officials.
The bills seek new requirements, greater penalties, higher wages and paid sick leave for workers.
“Our communities are permanent homes for our residents, and we need to own responsibility for committing the necessary funds to support their health and well-being,” says LeadingAge New Jersey & Delaware CEO Jim McCracken.
“The fact that they’re increasing direct care staff salaries is absolutely huge, because any advocate will tell you that the top three problems in long-term care are staffing, staffing and staffing” says New Jersey Long-Term Care Ombudsman Laurie Brewer.
Brewer says that many of the workers have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. She says that higher wages could help stop the spread of COVID-19 and other diseases.
“People who have good health benefits, who have sick time, who have a decent living wage will stick with that one job instead of multiple per diem jobs, for instance. So, that is the theory, I tend to agree with it,” she says.
Critics of Gov. Phil Murphy say that the New Jersey Health Department order that nursing homes had to allow non-critical COVID-positive patents back to their homes also assisted with the spread of the virus at nursing homes. 
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“We didn't have any cases that people came to us and said that had happened and that had been a significant factor actually,” says Brewer.
Requests for investigations by Brewer's office are down from the peak of the pandemic but are still up by 40% from last year. Brewer says that the office is bracing for a flood of more when the homes reopen for family visitations.
“I do think that when families get in there they may see things that they think are concerning and so we may get even more calls,” she says.
Brewer said the Legislature should go a step further and set minimum staffing levels for long-term care workers.


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