U.S. Justice Dept. needs to investigate troubled N.J. nursing home, says U.S. Sen. Grassley

Published: Mar. 16, 2022

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, called for an investigation Wednesday into possible civil rights violations at the Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center in Andover in the wake of reports alleging neglect, abuse and failures of care that federal regulators claim threatened the lives of hundreds of residents.

He was joined by fellow GOP Senators Tim Scott of South Carolina, ranking member of the Senate Aging Committee, and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. They say a probe is needed to determine if there were violations of the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.

“Evidence suggests that Woodland has subjected its residents to egregious and flagrant conditions that have caused them to suffer serious physical and emotional harm,” wrote Grassley in a letter to the Justice Department, co-signed by Scott and Tillis. “The federal government must intervene to prevent abuse and neglect of elderly patients at Woodland.”

Grassley had earlier called for the Department of Justice conduct a full investigation into nursing home deaths at facilities in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and Michigan — all states with Democratic governors, in a move that some critics charged is motivated more by politics than anything else.

But while the DOJ declined to open broad a Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act or CRIPA investigation into nursing homes in those states, it did launch an inquiry into two of the nursing facilities operated by the State of New Jersey: the Veterans Memorial Home at Menlo Park and the Veterans Memorial Home at Paramus. That investigation, which is apparently still ongoing, came to light after the Justice Department requested information regarding the spread of COVID in the veterans’ homes.

CRIPA is a federal law that protects the rights of people in nursing homes and other facilities.

Grassley, meanwhile, also called on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to detail its own review of Woodland, including decisions about whether to terminate the facility’s participation in Medicare and Medicaid.

“Unfortunately, little has changed since CMS imposed hefty fines on Woodland in 2020,” Grassley, Scott and Tillis wrote in a separate letter to the agency’s administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

Woodland has been under scrutiny following a highly critical state report last month that cited the nursing home in Sussex County for major health care violations, including failures to attempt resuscitation of several residents in cardiac arrest. Severe staffing shortages documented in the report claimed that Woodland operated with only half the staff mandated by New Jersey.

CMS threatened an immediate cutoff of Woodland’s Medicaid and Medicare funding, days after the New Jersey Department of Health issued its findings and ordered a halt to new admissions.

While CMS officials said Woodland remains in violation of a litany of nursing home requirements, it extended the deadline and gave the facility until August 15 to make corrections.

CMS said the facility will also be hit with financial penalties, which have yet to be imposed.

A full termination of federal funding would effectively shut down the facility in northern New Jersey, one of the largest nursing homes in the state. Woodland is heavily dependent on Medicaid as well as Medicare reimbursement to operate.

Labeled as one of the worst nursing homes in New Jersey, Woodland is now under the oversight of a state-appointed monitor who will conduct a full review of the facility’s operations.

Nursing home officials have said that Woodland “is working cooperatively with CMS to ensure that all applicable requirements are met and that it continues to provide appropriate care for its residents.”

Once known as the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center, the facility changed its name to Woodland Behavioral after it became the focus of nationwide attention at the height of the pandemic when police were called to the nursing home over Easter Weekend in April 2020 and asked to bring a supply of body bags. They discovered the bodies of 17 residents, some being kept in a makeshift morgue.

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published this page in News and Politics 2022-03-17 04:34:05 -0700