When the call came from the Administrator for more body bags, someone decided enough was enough and tipped off authorities. When police arrived, they found 17 bodies stacked into an on-site morgue with a capacity for four bodies. According to news reports, the local mayor and police chief near Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II in Sussex County, in northern New Jersey attribute this tragedy to being badly understaffed. The 17 bodies discovered this week brings the total number of deaths linked to this nursing home to 68. Two staff members and 26 residents who have died tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. As of this writing 76 residents at this facility have tested positive for the virus as have 41 staff members.
Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II are separate buildings across the street from each other. In total they have over 700 beds available for nursing home residents and are among New Jersey’s largest nursing homes. Andover Subacute I has a 3 star rating from Medicare which is defined as “Average” while Andover Subacute II suffers from a 1 star rating which is defined as “Much Below Average”. Both facilities are owned by Chaim Scheinbaum and Louis Schwartz, according to Nursing Home Compare.
How Could This Happen?
COVID-19 has presented challenges to the nursing home industry, however at its core this is about infection control. Infection control is something nursing homes have been required to provide for years. Some do it better than others. A nursing home is no better than the staff members it has to provide care to residents. If you are looking for the WHY when something bad happens at a nursing home, the first place to look is the staffing levels. In many cases, the nursing homes that struggle to provide quality care or a safe environment are those that have made the choice to reduce staffing to increase bottom line profits. A brief review of the staffing levels at these two facilities show that they were not staffing to meet the state and federal averages.
In this chart provided by Medicare.gov you can see that the New Jersey averages 1 hour and 40 minutes of licensed nursing care for each resident for each day while the national average is 1 hour and 33 minutes. Both of these facilities fell well short of the staffing averages with Andover Subacute I having 1 hour of nursing care for each resident each day while Andover Subacute II had only 46 minutes of total nursing care for each resident each day. Most alarmingly for Andover Subacute II is the 16 minutes of Registered Nursing care per patient per day which is substantially below the state and national averages. Similarly, Andover Subactute I is historically well below the average minutes of LPN/LVN care provided to each resident each day.
Local officials will likely investigate what led to this horrific event. But, according to published reports, “local officials are very frustrated because they have not been able to get into the facility. Calls to the facility have not been answered. The management and owner…have not revealed what’s been going on.” Danielson and Andover Township Mayor Michael Lensak stated “it is very disconcerting to not have the proper information coming out of a facility.”
Could This Happen In Missouri and Illinois?
The short answer is absolutely yes. Missouri and Illinois are filled with private, for-profit nursing homes that often fail to provide quality care and are less than candid with family members. If you have a loved one in a nursing home in Missouri or Illinois, you should make sure that you are receiving updated information on your loved one. For more information on that, see our blog about how families are frustrated with the response of local nursing homes to COVID-19 here.