Articles Posted in Nursing Home Abuse

Probably no U.S. state except New York has seen nursing facilities for the aged hit harder by the Covid-19 crisis than New Jersey. To date, over 7,000  Garden State nursing home residents have succumbed to the virus.

Back in the spring of 2020, in the early days of the pandemic, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and the state legislature acted quickly to grant broad civil and criminal immunity to health care facilities treating Covid patients, including hospitals and nursing homes.

The rationale at the time was that health care providers acting in good faith and according to prevailing safety protocols should not face crushing financial liability for Covid deaths that may not be their fault. However, as this blog has reported before, many nursing homes around the country and in New Jersey already had a poor track record of protecting elderly patients. Understaffing and other corner-cutting measures by for-profit owners left patients at risk, and elder advocates say these subpar facilities should not be allowed to now escape responsibility for preventable deaths.

Declaring that the Covid-19 crisis exposed and exacerbated pre-existing, longstanding problems within New Jersey nursing homes, two Democratic state legislators have introduced a series of bills designed to ensure long-term care facilities are better prepared to weather future emergencies and deliver “the highest quality care possible.”

State Senator Joseph Vitale and Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle on July 31 announced legislation that is intended to put into effect recommendations made in an independent organization’s report on New Jersey nursing homes and their response to Covid-19. The bills’ backers reportedly hope to get the legislation fast-tracked through the senate and assembly and to the governor’s desk.

The bills seek to impose better protections for staff and residents in the event of public health emergencies, as well as improve resident care and the working environment.

Families trust nursing homes to provide their aging loved ones professional round-the-clock care when they are no longer able to care for them. While there are many high-quality nursing homes in the United States, the unfortunate reality is that many facilities put profits before patients and are chronically understaffed and poorly equipped to provide their elder residents an adequate level of care. New Jersey is no exception: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which rates nursing homes throughout the country for compliance with federal regulations and publishes its findings on’s Nursing Home Compare website, ranks more than two dozen state homes as “much below average,” its lowest rating.

Families rely on the Nursing Home Compare tool to help them make informed decisions about where to place their senior loved ones. CMS assesses nursing facilities periodically and scores them on such factors as safety, cleanliness, and staffing levels. Of the 363 nursing homes in the Garden State evaluated by CMS, 28 earned one-star ratings out of a possible five and another earned zero stars.

As is typically the case with nursing homes judged deficient in one or more safety categories, these facilities experienced issues with food sanitation, failure to prevent medication errors, inadequate infection prevention measures, and poor cleanliness among others, according to CMS. The full list of homes is below.

Eighteen New Jersey medical professionals have faced legal trouble during the past year due to reasons such as opioid, sex, fraud, or stabbing charges involving patients. Some of these cases include a registered nurse who stabbed a 10-year old autistic child with a needle when he was behaving disruptively. The nurse, Naomi Derrick of Sicklerville, supposedly threatened the autistic child with a needle while he was being hospitalized in an Atlantic City psychiatric unit.

According to reports from the Office of Attorney General, Derrick stabbed the child at least six times throughout the duration of the 12 hour shift. Derrick’s conduct was recorded using a security camera found in the room, which revealed footage of her stabbing the child on his “upper arm, thigh, kneecaps, [and] foot and hand” resulting in an accumulation of blood droplets. Derrick claims she did not actually stab the child, but did admit to using the needle as a threat to encourage good behavior.

Other cases of poor ethics in the New Jersey medical community include individuals who have been accused of taking bribes, such as the case of a Bergen County pharmacist, Eduard Shtindler, who is charged with conspiracy for health care fraud. Shtindler supposedly paid kickbacks to a Hudson County based psychiatrist in order to provoke the doctor to direct his patients to the pharmacy that Shtindler owns in West New York. This scheme resulted in nearly $3 million worth of medications prescribed by the doctor which were filled by Shtindler’s pharmacy.

New Jersey governor Phil Murphy recently passed a lawthat erases rules that previously “slammed New Jersey auto accident victims with up to $250,000 in medical bills” for accidents that were not the victim’s fault. The law is designed to help those who purchase cheaper auto insurance plans that can leave them with insurmountable amounts of debt in the event of a car accident.

In addition to a comprehensive $250,000 personal injury protection plan that comes with most New Jersey car insurance policies, the state also permits a less expensive option that only covers up to $15,000 in personal injury protection. While this option can be a less costly month-to-month alternative, it can set drivers back tens of thousands of dollars even if they are not at fault for their accident.

The legal action has been inspired by the story of 27-year-old Josh Haines, a New Jersey resident who was saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in debt after a car accident he was involved in eight years ago. According to Josh, “’I’m left in the dark … this was eight years ago and it’s still setting me back.’” In 2011, Josh was driving from Camden County Community College when he was struck by a vehicle that was hydroplaning. His medical bills totaled $30,000, which is nearly double what his less-expensive insurance plan covered.

In New Jersey and across the United States, nursing home abuse cases have been on the rise. In fact, at Boonton Care Center in Morris County, NJ, a patient was recently pulled off of the toilet by her hair at the hands of an abusive CNA (certified nursing assistant). As with many nursing home abuse cases, witnesses can be intimidated and refrain from reporting the poor behavior. To complicate matters, many victims of nursing home abuse are incoherent and suffer from degenerative diseases such as Alzheimers and dementia that can make it difficult for them to recall traumatic abuses. Typically, residents without regular visits from loved ones and friends are most susceptible to nursing home abuse.

Nursing Home Abuse in New Jersey

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “abuse related citations nationwide are on the rise, jumping from 3,083 in 2016 to 4,107 in 2018”. Last year alone, there were over 350 complaints filed to the hotline controlled by New Jersey’s long term care ombudsman. Clocking in at 364 reported incidents, the bulk of nursing home abuse cases in New Jersey in 2018 are classified as “resident-to-resident physical or sexual abuse”. Notably, verbal abuse is another popular mechanism of mistreatment at long-term care facilities.

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