A nursing home where 17 bodies were found had a history of 'much below average' staffing and health inspections

phil murphy NJ gov

  • Police in Andover, New Jersey, found 17 bodies in the small morgue of a New Jersey nursing home.
  • The 17 were among 68 recent deaths at Andover Subacute Rehab I and II, according to The York Times reported.
  • Subacute Rehab II, has the lowest possible rating from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, indicating staffing and health inspection issues started before the pandemic.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Police responded to a tip about a need for body bags at a New Jersey nursing home on Monday and found 17 bodies piled up in a small morgue on the campus, the New York Times reported.

The 17 bodies were among 68 recent deaths linked to the long-term care campus that houses Andover Subacute Rehabilitation Center I and II, the Times reported.
While 26 of the deaths, including two nurses, were confirmed cases of COVID-19, staffing and health issues at the facility had been documented before the coronavirus became a problem, according to recent surveys by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

"I am heartbroken by the tragic news that several individuals have lost their lives in a coronavirus outbreak in at the Andover Subacute Rehabilitation Centers I and II," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said in his daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday. "I am also outraged that bodies of the dead were allowed to pile up in a makeshift morgue at the facility. New Jersey residents being cared for in our longterm care facilities deserve to be cared for with respect, compassion, and dignity."

Murphy said that he asked the State Attorney General's office to open an investigation into long term care facilities that are seeing a disproportionate number of coronavirus cases.

A team of officials from state and local agencies has also been deployed to the facilities to assist in caring for the residents.

Andover Subacute Rehabilitation Center II, one of the two centers that have suffered a coronavirus outbreak, is rated "much below average" for both staffing and health inspections, according to the CMS. While the agency ranked "quality of resident care" at the facility as average, both health inspections and staffing were given one out of five stars. On Jan. 30, 2019, Center II was fined nearly $14,000 for violations found at the facility.

Andover Subacute Rehabilitation Center I was ranked average overall.

Murphy called the state of COVID-19 at the Andover centers "completely beyond the pale" and "unacceptable."

The Department of Health became aware of the COVID-19 outbreak on Saturday when a staff member called to request body bags for 26 bodies that were being stored at the facility, Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli said at the daily briefing.

A local team visited early Sunday and reported that they had adequate staffing and protective gear, but discovered the first five bodies.

On Tuesday, there was another complaint and the department learned of an additional 14 bodies being stored there.

"Were not pleased with what is going on at the Andover facility," Persichilli said.
There are currently 103 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents of the two buildings, with an additional 133 residents showing symptoms, the commissioner said Thursday. Several staff members have also been diagnosed with COVID-19. Many more are showing symptoms.

One concerned family member of an Andover resident told Business Insider that she wants to see the state take over the facility.

"I have a relative in there who I love. She is scared. I am too," the woman told BI. "The governor's office and other politicians keep saying things like, 'Someday we'll figure out what went wrong' or 'We're investigating.' No, more lives will be lost today unless they the National Guard, Army medics, or someone to take it over."

The woman, who asked only to be identified as Amy, organized a Facebook group for concerned family members and residents.

"I became concerned last week when a family member of another patient said that the patients got letters saying staff and patients had coronavirus," the woman said. "The letters didn't say there were any deaths, but neither of us was notified and the state didn't have info on deaths." The two buildings combined are licensed for a total of 700 beds, according to the CMS. That makes the centers the largest New Jersey nursing home, according to the Times.

Nursing homes around the country have been hard hit during the pandemic. More than 3,600 people at US facilities have died from COVID-19.

Business Insider has requested several years' worth of inspection reports from the facility. The records request is pending.

On Wednesday, days after the New Jersey Herald broke the first in a series of storied about the bodies, US Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) and other members of New Jersey's Congressional delegation requested that the US Public Health Service deploy men and women to assist in staffing needs at long-term care facilities in the state.

"These outbreaks not only put seniors and other residents of long-term care facilities at an increased risk but also the front-line workers at these facilities," the delegation wrote in a letter to US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. "While we are making progress, a critical shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) remains for front-line health care workers in long-term care facilities, hospitals, and first responders. Many of the long-term care facilities in our state are already facing critical staffing shortages and if more front-line workers become infected, this problem will only get worse."

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