RELEASE: Gottheimer Announces Action to Support Andover Township Following Closure of Deadly Woodland/Andover Subacute Long-Term Care Facility

Oct 24, 2022
Press

ANDOVER TOWNSHIP, NJ

Working with NJ Senator Oroho, Assemblymen Wirths & Space, Mayor Walsh to offset lost revenue for the Township

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Above: Gottheimer near the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II/Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center facility today.

ANDOVER TOWNSHIP, NJ — Today, October 24, 2022, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) announced action to support Andover Township following the necessary closure of the badly mismanaged and deadly Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II/Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center facility. Gottheimer is calling on the State of New Jersey to take immediate action to provide economic relief to the Township if the owners default on their local taxes.

Gottheimer has been working with the Governor’s office, NJ Senator Steve Oroho, NJ Assemblymen Hal Wirths and Parker Space, Andover Township Mayor Thomas Walsh, Jr., and local leaders since before the long-term care facility was forced to close.

Andover Subacute contributed $1.4 million in property taxes annually to the community to help pay for everything from police to roads to local schools.

Now, the owners have stopped paying local taxes.

Gottheimer sent a letter to Governor Phil Murphy requesting that the State of New Jersey utilize emergency, stabilizing economic assistance to help offset lost revenue for Andover Township, or a portion of its $6 billion emergency dollars from the American Rescue Plan. These federal dollars would be necessary if for some unexpected reason the State’s emergency stabilizing resources are not available.

“Many of us, from the state’s Department of Health, to CMS, to my office and state and local officials, including State Senator Oroho and the Mayor, repeatedly sounded the alarm and pushed for accountability. Finally, the facility in Andover was rightly forced to close its doors. Thankfully, each and every resident living at the Andover Subacute nursing home has been transferred to other facilities,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “Now, the owners here have stopped paying the tax bills that they owe. First, the landowner here should cover the tax revenue they owe the town. They should pay their bills, no excuses. You can’t just stop paying your bills because you feel like it. In the meantime, and if the landlord doesn’t do the right thing, then we need to figure out another way to get urgent help to Andover Township.”

Gottheimer continued, “As part of this transition for the community, I’m requesting — from the State — emergency, stabilizing economic assistance for Andover Township, which is losing its single-largest source of revenue from the nursing home’s closure. This is very common in cases like this — transitional assistance to help a community through an unexpected financial crisis.”

Gottheimer cited the State of New Jersey stepping in to support the Township of Nutley, which lost Hoffmann-La Roche, its largest ratepayer, in 2013. The state provided transitional assistance for years to help the Township get back on its feet.

When contacted about issues at the Andover facility in early April 2020, Gottheimer continued to request coordination, action, and resources from the State of New Jersey, FEMA, and the federal government to address COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care facilities in North Jersey. Gottheimer was also in regular contact with NJ Department of Health (NJDOH) Commissioner Judith Persichilli and with the Governor’s office regarding the crisis at the Andover facility. 

During the height of the 2020 crisis, a police inspection of the Andover Subacute facility found 17 bodies piled in a makeshift morgue. 

Gottheimer asked the State and CMS in April 2020 to investigate the Andover facility. The CMS inspection report found that the Andover Subacute II facility was not in substantial compliance with federal requirements, imposed a Civil Money Penalty accruing a total of $220,235, and required the facility to submit a Plan of Correction (PoC) for the deficiencies cited by CMS.

In April 2020, Gottheimer also asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to deploy National Guard and Reserves to assist North Jersey long-term care facilities in need, and he requested that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) deploy U.S. Public Health Service front-line health care workers. Gottheimer also asked the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to fulfill the State of New Jersey’s request for additional assistance for all long-term care facilities in dire need throughout the State at the time.

In January 2022, Gottheimer asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to address conditions at Andover Subacute, as the facility experienced the worst COVID-19 omicron outbreak in New Jersey at the time. Gottheimer requested an update on the facility’s compliance with corrective actions that were supposed to be put in place following the May 2020 CMS inspection. 

Finally, in May 2022, Gottheimer applauded the move by CMS to issue the Andover facility a notice of termination effective June 2022.

Gottheimer’s letter to the Governor can be found here.

Video of the announcement can be found here.

Below: Gottheimer near the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II/Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center facility today.

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Gottheimer’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

I’m here today to call on the State of New Jersey to take immediate action to provide economic relief to Andover Township to help offset financial losses caused by the urgent and necessary closure of Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II facility, also known as Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center — if the owners default on their local taxes. 

For a small community like Andover, where local tax revenue provides the financial backbone for essential public services, including law enforcement, the necessary closure of the Andover Subacute could have a serious impact on this beautiful and safe community.

In August of this year, the state rightly closed down Andover Subacute because the facility repeatedly put the lives of seniors, veterans, and its residents in danger, including repeated non-compliances resulting in injury, impairment, and even death of its residents.

During the first several months of the COVID crisis, North Jersey was in the eye of the storm — with the virus devastating our communities. It hit our hospitals and health systems, our towns, and our most vulnerable populations: our seniors, our veterans, and those living in long-term care facilities like this one.

We saw how COVID outbreaks wreaked havoc most acutely on nursing homes, state-run veterans’ homes, and other long-term care facilities.

While the pandemic caused much unavoidable tragedy, it infuriates me that there were preventable deaths and harm that occurred at the Andover Subacute nursing home here in Sussex County.  

In April 2020, I learned first hand, from a call one late night from the director of the facility, who was in tears, telling me about the crisis of care at the facility. So many people had lost their lives over a few days period. Seventeen body bags were literally stacked up in the makeshift morgue outside this facility. I had to help them get more body bags in the middle of the night. The reports made me sick to my stomach.

I also requested coordination, action, and resources from the State of New Jersey, FEMA, and the federal government to address COVID-19 outbreaks in North Jersey’s long-term care facilities.  

I was in regular contact with the NJ Department of Health (NJDOH) Commissioner and with the Governor’s office regarding the crisis at the facility. And I called on the State and CMS in April 2020 to investigate the facility. 

In the months following, at my request, CMS fined the facility more than $200,000 and required them to submit a Plan of Correction. We called in the National Guard to assist North Jersey long-term care facilities in need and requested that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) deploy U.S. Public Health Service front-line health care workers.

And I urged the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to fulfill the State of New Jersey’s request for additional assistance for all long-term care facilities in dire need throughout the State at the time.

At the same time, the State announced a broad investigation into the facility. You would think that would have been enough to convince the owner, who I spoke to on more than one occasion, to get things right. To increase staffing – and to protect the staff and residents with proper PPE. To keep an eye on the patients and try to keep the healthy from getting COVID. But they didn’t, they didn’t do a thing. 

Sadly, despite these actions, the facility still failed to provide adequate staffing and care for its residents. The State reported multiple instances of residents hospitalized, a consistent lack of infection control precautions, and an altercation between residents, which resulted in bodily injury to one resident requiring surgery. 

A 2020 inspection report had unimaginable findings here. 

A resident was found on the floor who had fallen on a wet floor and obtained an abrasion on the head. The same resident was pronounced dead the next morning. The report found multiple patients with elevated temperatures and no documented clinical assessment or follow-up. 

And a review of facility documentation found several missing elements like missing temperature logs for residents and a lack of documentation of resident symptoms. 

For example, a resident was admitted to the hospital with respiratory failure and possible COVID-19. There were no documented notes in the resident’s temperature log regarding their condition for the previous five shifts and no test had been ordered for the resident. The resident was subsequently intubated at the hospital.

And unfortunately, the list went on.

In January this year — nearly two years after inspections — the facility was still having issues, and had the worst omicron outbreak in New Jersey at the time. I asked the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CMS to address the mismanagement at Andover Subacute again. They had the worst outbreak of Omicron in the state of New Jersey at the time.

This was a request for an update on the facility’s compliance with corrective actions that were supposed to be put in place following their 2020 inspection.

If a nursing home cannot properly take care of our seniors, it needs to be immediately investigated and revamped or shut down — it seems to me the choice is pretty clear.  

Families should have confidence that older relatives and veterans will be well cared for in their later years, whether residing in private or state-run long-term care facilities. Yet, CMS and the state returned multiple times to inspect, and nothing seemed to get better at this facility. They failed time and time again, the owner decided to take no action despite repeated attempts to get them to do so. 

A statement from CMS said multiple serious infection control deficiencies at the facility resulted in 30 resident deaths since October 2021 due to COVID, and the facility failed to administer “urgent medication” to a resident, which led to the subsequent hospitalization and death of the individual.

Many of us, from the State Department of Health, to CMS, to my office and state and local officials, including State Senator Oroho and the Mayor repeatedly sounded the alarm and pushed for accountability, the facility was finally, rightly,  forced to close its doors.

Thankfully, each and every resident living at the Andover Subacute nursing home has been transferred to other facilities.  

This was not the first time we held those accountable for mismanagement of a long-term care facility. When there was a badly managed COVID outbreak at the Paramus Veterans Home, I was on the phone with the Governor and reaching out to the federal VA, demanding an investigation, and for the appropriate people to be fired. We delivered immediate action and got the VA on the ground — VA medics, nurses, and helped bring the National Guard in. And following our calls for accountability, the Governor appointed new leadership at the New Jersey VA and at the facilities themselves. Action was taken.

So for here in Sussex, I applaud CMS for finally issuing Andover Subacute’s management a notice of termination, and for working with the facility and the State during the transition to ensure no resident would be left without care. 

I think it’s clear that they made the right decisions here – and I know the town, the state senator and assembly members and local officials agree.  But, now that we’ve taken care of the seniors and veterans at Andover Subacute, we need to take care of the township — from the serious financial situation it’s facing. 

Every year, Andover Subacute contributed $1.4 million in property taxes to the community to help pay for everything from police to roads to schools like Florence M. Burd elementary, Long Pond, and Newton High School. 

27 percent of the $1.4 million went into the $10 million municipal budget, 57 percent to help fund schools and 16 percent to county services. 

Nearly out of nowhere, those tax dollars are gone because the owners have stopped paying. Let me repeat, the owners here have stopped paying the tax bills that they owe. 

First, the landowner here should cover the tax revenue they owe the town. They should pay their bills, no excuses. You can’t just stop paying your bills because you feel like it.

In the meantime, and if the landlord doesn’t do the right thing, then we need to figure out another way to get urgent help to Andover Township. 

This is something I’ve been working on with the Governor’s office, Senator Oroho, and Assemblymen Wirths and Space, since before Andover shut its doors, it’s been a team effort.

In fact, I spoke to the Mayor and the Governor’s chief of staff just yesterday – and I know they’ve also been in close touch. The mayor has been fighting hard for the community, and I’ve been working closely with Senator Oroho who couldn’t be here today but will be issuing a statement. 

As part of this transition for the community, I’m requesting — from the State — emergency, stabilizing economic assistance for Andover Township, which is losing its single-largest source of revenue due to the nursing home’s closure. 

This is very common in cases like this – transitional assistance to help a community through an unexpected financial crisis. There is a long list of when the state has stepped in – most notably the Township of Nutley which lost Hoffmann-La Roche, its largest ratepayer in 2013. The state gave transitional assistance for years to help the Township get back on its feet. There are other cases where the State has stepped in with programs for exactly this purpose.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have all been in this together, and we must act now to ensure Andover Township’s essential services can continue to operate for our families and residents, despite this economic disruption, including support for its schools. 

Now, if for some unexpected reason the emergency stabilizing resources aren’t available – and they should be, we’ve written to them and asked them to take action as requested – there is another backup. 

Last year, as part of the American Rescue Plan, Congress allocated six billion emergency dollars to the state of New Jersey to help our towns and counties with unexpected COVID-19 expenses. 

As I argued in a letter sent last month to the Governor, these are resources that the state can deploy to a town like Andover for an unexpected COVID expense – the Andover Subacute pandemic-driven shutdown certainly qualifies, in my opinion. There was no other option than to shut this facility down, and as a result it left a gaping whole in Andover’s budget.

I can’t think of a better reason for the state to tap into these resources than to ensure that Andover Township can continue to provide essential and emergency services for its residents in the face of a sudden, unfortunate, pandemic-related change in town revenue.

We must take necessary steps to prevent the correction of one tragedy from leading to more impacts on the community here. 

Additionally, to protect long-term care facilities, I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation — the Nursing Home Pandemic Protection Act — cosponsored by my Pennsylvania Republican colleague, and Co-Chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, Brian Fitzpatrick.

With my bipartisan bill, we’ve proposed vital protections be put in place to more fully safeguard residents in our long-term care facilities — both in New Jersey and nationwide.

This bipartisan bill will require long-term care facilities to have a crisis plan in place to manage disease outbreaks, maintain a stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) on hand to protect residents and staff, and keep residents’ family members informed of outbreaks and public health emergencies — all the things they failed to do in this facility will be corrected with this bipartisan legislation.

Communication to the CDC and loved-ones, a crisis plan, and PPE are all core protections for nursing homes and veterans homes, especially as we enter the fall and flu season and surge in COVID.

Republicans and Democrats alike want greater protections for our seniors and veterans, and we want to make sure our long-term care facilities are prepared and following proper protocols. 

This isn’t a Republican or Democratic issue — it’s an American issue.

Across the United States, we have more than 26,000 nursing homes and assisted living facilities with more than 800,000 Americans.

This hits every state, every region, and it’s a major issue we can all unite on to help combat this together.

By working together at the local, state, and federal level to continue to build safer communities for our families, I know that our best days will always be ahead of us. 

May God bless you and God bless these United States of America.

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