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After Residents Were Judged to Be at Risk, N.j. Was Threatened by the Feds and Forced to Give Over Authority of Veteran Housing.

The state-run veteran’s homes in New Jersey want someone else in charge of them since they are in jeopardy.

The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs was given a directive by Governor Phil Murphy on Wednesday to look for an outside provider “who can manage systemic changes and offer competent, administrative employees to help lead these projects.”

The action was taken after the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services last week cut off federal funding for new admissions at the Veteran’s Memorial Home at Menlo Park, following a declaration that residents at the nursing home in Edison were in “immediate jeopardy” due to serious shortcomings in care and deficiencies in pandemic infection control.

The institution is “currently not in substantial compliance,” according to CMS, which threatened fines and other penalties on Tuesday. If the problem at Menlo Park is not resolved by March, all Medicaid and Medicare funding may be permanently terminated.

CMS spokesman Bruce Alexander stated that “denial of payment for all new admissions began on Nov. 22 since the persistent quality concerns have not been addressed.”

Officials from Veterans Affairs claim they disagree with the findings of the CMS.

The Murphy administration this week sent a so-called “Mission Critical Team” to Menlo Park in response to a crackdown by federal regulators. The team included a nurse consultant and an administrator with experience managing long-term care facilities.

The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, or DMAVA, was separately given a directive by the governor late on Wednesday afternoon to issue a request for proposals and bring in a vendor who would be in charge of enhancing operations at all three of the state’s veteran’s homes, including initiatives to train leadership

and to review current job descriptions, policies, and procedures and revise them as necessary.

A qualified administrative team, including a chief executive officer and a chief nursing officer, will be provided by the vendor as part of that plan.

According to a statement from Murphy’s administration, “improving the care our veterans are receiving in each of the three state-run veterans homes remains a crucial priority.” It was a crucial step toward achieving this goal to send a Mission Critical Team to Menlo Park to assist and counsel facility staff, but it is unquestionably not the only one we must make.

“We will harness the expertise and impartiality of an outside vendor to ensure the implementation of thorough, long-lasting reforms in these homes,” he claimed, adding that by looking for experienced leadership to oversee systemic reforms and bringing experienced staff on board.

While attempting to fill the position, the vendor would step in and take over as CEO pro tempore. Before any changes are made at the other two veterans’ homes in Vineland and Paramus, they will first be made at Menlo Park.

The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs is in charge of the Brigadier General William C. Doyle Veterans Memorial Cemetery in addition to the 8,400 members of the Air and Army National Guard. It also oversees programs for military families.

The governor’s decision was praised and dubbed absolutely crucial by state senator Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, who has long advocated for better nursing home care in the state and has been a vocal critic of the management of the veteran’s homes.

He said, “Our veterans kept their end of the bargain; now it’s our turn to keep our end.”

Vitale pointed out that Complete Care, a large chain, was hired by Middlesex County in 2020 to run its two long-term care facilities in Old Bridge and Edison.

“The quality of care has improved all around,” he declared. He referred to the CMS five-star rating system, which is used to evaluate the caliber of the country’s nursing homes, saying that they were a one-star facility but are now a four-star facility.

Vitale and state senator Joseph Cryan, a Democrat from Union, had been advocating for the state to relinquish control over the veterans’ home.

In order to provide New Jersey’s veterans with the level of care they merit in recognition of the sacrifices they have made on behalf of the country, Cryan said, “Our veterans deserve experts who understand all aspects of long-term care management and can bring that expertise into these homes.”

Glenn Osborne, a longtime resident of Menlo Park and the head of the local residents’ council, expressed skepticism about the strategy, though.Joseph Cryan,

The veterans, who are the most important people, and the nursing staff, particularly the good, dedicated staff, will suffer, Osborne told NJ Advance Media. “In my experience, external corporations always reduce expenses by laying off employees.”

The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Commissioner and Adjutant General, Brig. Gen. Lisa J. Hou, stated that the agency was “working aggressively to ensure the highest standards of care for the veterans, veteran spouses, and Gold Star Families in our care.” and appreciates what she called the “expected support.”

The Menlo Park nursing home, which provides care for veterans and their spouses, was inspected by state health inspectors in August and September, during which the problems were discovered. These inspection reports included serious allegations of neglect and abuse.

In one example, a registered nurse snipped a Foley catheter with a pair of scissors because she evidently didn’t know how to remove one, as is taught in nursing school. The remainder of the tube that had been inserted into the resident’s bladder to drain urine needed to be removed at the emergency room before the resident could be sent to a hospital to receive treatment for a urinary tract infection.

When asked why she had not intervened while watching the nurse cut the catheter, a certified nursing assistant with experience in the procedure reportedly said, “She is an RN. She ought to be aware, the inspectors said.

The RN was subsequently put on leave before being fired.

An angry nurse and an aide allegedly confronted another resident after he repeatedly rang a call bell to get his medication. The incident was described in the report as being emotionally and physically abusive.

Additionally, the facility allegedly did not carry out contact tracing to stop the massive COVID-19 outbreak that started around Thanksgiving last year, according to inspectors. Menlo Park received a citation for failing to “ensure that staff who were exposed were tested prior to working at the facility” and for failing to uphold national, state, and local infection control regulations.

The fatality rates from the pandemic at the state veteran’s homes were among the highest in the nation. According to the state, COVID claimed the lives of over 200 residents and employees across all three veteran’s homes, while one attorney who is representing hundreds of families that sued the state claims there may have been as many as 240 fatalities.

Following its well-publicized shortcomings during the epidemic, the facilities underwent significant adjustments. In reaction to the fatalities there, Murphy removed Elizabeth Schiff-Heedless, the former CEO of Menlo Park, in October 2020 as part of a comprehensive shakeup.

Although he is pleased that Menlo Park is receiving some much-needed care, Jay Boxwell Jr., state commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars of New Jersey, expressed hesitancy about privatizing the enterprise. While the management improved as a result of privatization at the two county-owned nursing homes in Middlesex County, which Vitale praises as a model worth imitating, the resident complained that the operator was taking the lion’s share of their monthly money to support the institution. The veteran’s homes, which depend on a lot less of the residents’ income, shouldn’t let such, he said.

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To ensure that these institutions are “veteran-centric,” according to Boxwell, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs must continue to be involved in the operation.

They must comprehend the special requirements of the veteran population and uphold the necessary levels of social camaraderie, he insisted. “Our culture is distinctive. Our shared understanding of one another’s problems is what keeps us close. Before COVID, these facilities were first-rate.

To stop the transmission of airborne diseases, the VFW wants to remodel the rooms at Menlo Park such that they are single occupancy only and have negative pressure ventilation. The VFW continues to meet with the department commissioner, Hou, about this. He claimed to have left a meeting with Hou on Wednesday inspired by her assertion that the project has her support.

Families of 190 deceased veterans home residents who had sued for managers’ egregious carelessness and incompetence during the height of the pandemic received settlements from the Murphy Administration totaling $68.8 million in the last year.

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Employees from Menlo Park sued the state in August, claiming that the decision to fine people for wearing masks and the failure to stop the coronavirus’s spread endangered their lives.

Although it was undoubtedly needed a long time ago, Paul da Costa, who represented many of the families and current employees, said he was encouraged by the state’s actions.

He continued, “Contains some disturbing admissions, which my clients and I have been asserting for the last two years: that the administrators tasked with running these veterans’ homes were not qualified, not skilled, and obviously incompetent.”

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