Governor Orders Investigation After 17 Bodies Found Stacked In Nursing Home
Andover, NJ – Police found 17 dead bodies packed into a tiny morgue at New Jersey’s largest nursing home on Monday, and federal records show that one of the nursing home’s owners has been accused of neglect in the past.
The investigation began after the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center I and II reached out to the Sussex County Health Department on April 11 for an alarming number of body bags, The New York Times reported.
Andover Township Police Chief Eric C. Danielson, who also functions as the township’s Office of Emergency Management coordinator, said officers investigated in the early morning hours of Easter Sunday and found five corpses being stored in the holding area that was meant to be used for funeral homes to pick them up, the New Jersey Herald reported.
Later that day, Andover Township police received a tip that the same facility was storing at least one dead body in a shed on its property, The New York Times reported.
So officers went back to Andover Subacute on Monday to investigate again and found 13 bodies in the holding area, the New Jersey Herald reported.
In all, 17 bodies were removed from the small morgue meant only to hold four deceased persons, The New York Times reported.
The nursing home has had 68 recent deaths and 26 of those tested positive for coronavirus, The New York Times reported.
The cause of death remains unknown for most of the others, but two nurses were included in that count.
County health records showed that 76 of the remaining patients at Andover Subacute have tested positive for coronavirus, as have 41 staff members, including an administrator, The New York Times reported.
“They were just overwhelmed by the amount of people who were expiring,” Chief Danielson said.
Andover Subacute is the largest licensed long-term care facility in New Jersey and has 700 patient beds, the New York Times reported.
By the time police checked the facility, the corpse that had allegedly been stored in the outside shed had been removed, but the overall state of the facility was still in total disarray, the New Jersey Herald reported.
Staff members and family members of patients who became ill have complained to the Sussex County Sheriff’s Office and the Andover Township police about the lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) available and the lack of communication and multiple investigations have been launched.
The New York Times reported that before the coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, Andover Subacute had received a one-star rating of “much below average” from Medicare for staffing levels, inspections and patient care during a recent evaluation.
It turns out that Andover Subacute is half-owned by Louis Schwartz, the former vice president of Skyline Healthcare, a chain of nursing homes that went out of business under the shadow of allegations of neglect and while fighting more than a dozen lawsuits, NBC News reported.
When it shut down, hundreds of patients were displaced with no notice and employees were let go from more than a dozen facilities.
Former employees filed lawsuits that accused Skyline Healthcare of stealing their insurance premiums, NBC News reported.
Now the spotlight is on Andover Subacute and state officials are getting involved.
"We're not pleased with what is going on at the Andover facility," New Jersey Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli told reporters during a media briefing on Thursday.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said he has asked New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal to investigate the goings on at Andover Subacute, The New York Times reported.
The governor also asked Grewal to investigate all long-term care facilities that “have experienced a disproportionate number of deaths.”