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NJ Response to COVID’s Impact on Long Term Care Facilities

Approximately half of New Jersey’s coronavirus related deaths occurred in long term care facilities.  A state funded health report has made some recommendations on how to improve facilities’ responses to the virus, especially with the potential of a much talked about second wave this winter.

The Manatt Health report found that the coranvirus pandemic worsened systemic issues that have existed for some time.  We have seen how the pandemic has caused some families to shy away from moving a loved one to a facility or at least to defer that decision.  How this affects the industry long term remains to be seen but a big factor will be government response.  The first attempts to address the problem are now on Governor Murphy’s desk awaiting his signature.

Several bills passed by the State Assembly and Senate are now waiting for the Governor’s signature.  One provides $62.3 million in state aid to help nursing facilities pay for wage increases and COVID related costs such as personal protective equipment.  With federal Medicaid matching funds the amount available to help these facilities would increase to about $130 million.  There is, however, a provision to hold the facilities accountable to certain defined standards and protocol.  Two or more infection control violations would result int the need to pay the funds back to the government.

Other bills passed by the legislature include one time payments to long term care facility employees who worked during the pandemic and another insuring that employees could earn paid sick leave.  This could include per diem workers who would not otherwise be classified as employees for the purpose of sick leave.

Another bill requires long term care facilities to have plans to combat the isolation of residents necessitated by strict lockdowns in a pandemic.  This could include making computers and video conferencing capabilities available to residents.

Implementation of any of these changes will obviously play only a part in addressing the problems exposed by COVID but it’s a good start.  With the population continuing to age, the need for long term care facilities will not disappear.  Hopefully, with some government assistances, changes can be made and facilities on the whole will be better prepared for the next crisis and families will feel confident and comfortable in deciding to relocate a loved one.