A report from consulting firm Manatt Health commissioned by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy found that the state’s nursing homes were unprepared for the Covid-19 pandemic, and recommended an overhaul to prepare for future waves and outbreaks.
The report was commissioned in May as Covid-19 deaths in New Jersey mounted, especially in long-term care facilities. Manatt Health, the healthcare legal and consulting arm of professional services firm Manatt, completed the report in four weeks for a fee of $500,000.
Approximately 12,000 people have died from Covid-19 in New Jersey, with approximately 5,000 of those deaths being residents and staff at long-term care (LTC) facilities.
The report highlighted a number of shortcomings in the LTC system in New Jersey, including a lack of central oversight, staff shortages, and communication breakdowns.
According to the report, no single department oversees the LTC system as a whole, making it more difficult to align policy, finance, and regulations. The state also lacked a preparedness plan for distributing personal protective equipment and replacing sick staff.
Communication between nursing homes and hospitals was patchy, with officials often lacking information on Covid-19 patient admissions and discharges. Communication between nursing homes and family members was likewise lacking, according to the Manatt report.
The state also had difficulty identifying the owners of the many of the 670 facilities, especially for-profit operators, making it more difficult to hold them accountable.
The report also highlighted low staffing ratios at LTC facilities, as well as the common practice of having three or four beds to a room – which helps Covid-19 spread more easily.
The report made a number of recommendations to help New Jersey’s LTC system better respond to the next wave of Covid-19 or the next pandemic.
Manatt said the state should consolidate response through a new central LTC emergency operations center, which would coordinate all activity and communications. The report also recommended ensuring staff access to paid sick leave, wage floors and wage enhancements, and minimum staffing ratios for direct care.
The consulting firm urged an increase in transparency and accountability by creating new procedures to regulate and monitor facility ownership and centralizing LTC data collection.
Manatt also recommended that nursing homes maintain infection control preventionists to help improve safety.
“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,” Gov. Murphy said in a statement on June 2. “My Administration looks forward to implementing Manatt’s recommendations to mitigate and protect one of our most vulnerable populations from future outbreaks.”