HOLMDEL, NJ - Some decisions have life-and-death consequences. A major one was in March.

One of the dangerous decisions during the ongoing pandemic for untold local families was when Governor Murphy, during his early orders, forced nursing homes to take COVID-19 infected patients into their facilities.

As the forced introduction of the virus ran rampant through the nursing homes, infected patients and caregivers were subject to being sickened or worse.

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Over in New York,  the Governor did the same thing. Specifically, ordering nursing homes to admit patients infected with COVID-19, bringing the pandemic through the front door. In his case, Governor Andrew Cuomo wrote a book on leadership and was given an Emmy for his performance. True story.  

Specific to New Jersey, the letter dated March 31, 2020, on behalf of Gov. Murphy (see photo), stated that "no patient shall be denied readmission or admission to the post acute care setting solely based on confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19."

Providing rapid transmission of the novel coronavirus to other patients was telegraphed during March 27 article posted from the CDC specifically referencing the nursing home in Washington state that warned about such introduction.  

According to Senator Joe Pennachio (26th Legislative District), “New Jersey’s letter to these facilities was dated March 31, 2020, while New York’s was almost one week prior on March 25, 2020. Seems to me that New Jersey was taking directions from New York on its handling of COVID-19 patients in nursing homes,” 

The Senator produced letters from both states directed at hospitals and nursing homes as to what their discharge and acceptance policy should be toward these elderly vulnerable patients. The letters were highlighted by the Senator to show where the exact New York verbiage was used by the New Jersey State Department of Health in those directions.

“New Jersey did not even have the courtesy and forethought to write their own letter. At a time when over 50% of New Jersey’s COVID-19 deaths occurred in long-term nursing facilities, the thoughtless effort into the formation of this correspondence seems callous and insensitive,” said Pennacchio.

Fast-forward to November.

A recent set of violations have been given to a Hazlet/Holmdel area nursing facility and highlight the lower, comparatively positive, level of infractions now seen by 'surprise' inspectors. 

OSHA  (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) had a surprise inspection of Arnold Walter Nursing Home on the Holmdel/Hazlet border. It resulted in $22,000 in fines.

The violations were related to policies regarding masks and training for employees. Also noted were issues with medical evaluations that are required for employees for testing and for certain face masks fitting. They were cited for deficiencies in reporting that is required to OSHA as well as record keeping failures that were noted.  The citations did not appear to be related to patient care or employee issues other than policy evaluation for testing and reporting requirements as well as record-keeping requirements.

This is in contrast to the experiences by families from the state's decision to force nursing homes to accept COVID-19 infected patients.

The reading of the violations is as follows:

  • Employers who require their employees to wear respirators or safety masks must develop workplace-specific policies for selecting the type of masks that will be worn, training for employees about their proper usage and procedures for cleaning, storing and maintaining the masks. The facility was fined $12,145 for this violation.
  • Medical evaluations are required for employees who wear respirators to determine their ability to safely use them on the job.
  • Employers must conduct fit tests for employees who wear tight-fitting face masks.
  • All work-related employee deaths must be reported to OSHA within eight hours. Arnold Walter nursing home was fined $8,675 for this violation.
  • Employers must keep records of workplace-related fatalities, injuries or illnesses. The citation resulted in a $1,735 fine.

OSHA performs random, unannounced visits to ensure that rules are followed and patients and staff are protected in facilities that are designed to care for our most vulnerable citizens.