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Budget Committee Clears Bills Requiring More Accountability From Nursing Homes

TRENTON – A bill requiring the Department of Health to establish a scaling system of actions to be taken and penalties to be imposed for nursing homes in violation of state and federal requirements for long-term care operations and procedures, was passed today out of the Budget and Appropriations Committee. 
The bill, S-2759, sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale and Senator Fred Madden, would establish various rules concerning reporting requirements for the facilities and would establish the Nursing Home Advisory Council, whose charge would be to advise the Department of Health on matters related to oversight, and also foster better communication with the public regarding nursing homes.
“As we saw during the early deadly days of the spread of the coronavirus in New Jersey, our nursing homes were often overwhelmed and ill-equipped to handle the mass infection rates, and were caught flat-footed in trying to respond effectively,” said Senator Vitale (D-Middlesex). “The state has a role to play in making sure these facilities follow procedure, or pay a price for failing to do so. The lives of residents and workers at nursing homes depend on it.”
Under the legislation, DOH must develop a special focus survey program for nursing homes with a history of chronic, repeat violations of state or federal requirements for nursing home administration and operations or a history of noncompliance with corrective plans or other disciplinary actions instituted by the Department. The program would include the use of additional, focused surveys to determine whether the nursing home is taking appropriate steps to remediate the conditions that contributed to the violations that resulted in the nursing home being included in the program.
In addition, the Department would be empowered to assess enhanced sanctions and other penalties for continued or repeat noncompliance with department regulations.
“We need more data on financial information from these facilities, as well as greater transparency in general,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester). “We also need more detailed reporting on the number of facility-acquired infections occurring among residents of the nursing home in the preceding year. The simple fact is the state needs to have a much better idea of what is going on inside our state’s homes, and be able to respond quickly and decisively.”
A companion bill, S-2789, sponsored by Senator Vitale and Senator Loretta Weinberg, would revise certain requirements concerning the licensure and operations of long-term care facilities.
Revisions would include one to a provision of current law that allows nursing homes to increase their total bed capacity by a limited amount without having to obtain a certificate of need. The change would provide that beds added in this manner may not be transferred or sold to another nursing home without obtaining a certificate of need. The bill additionally prohibits the transfer of beds that are part of an unimplemented certificate of need to another nursing facility without obtaining a certificate of need.
In addition, the bill would revise the application and approval process for the transfer of ownership of nursing homes. The process would require increased reporting on the part of the buyers, as well as by any third party entities that have been delegated substantial management control of the facility. The bill would further establish certain requirements for the sale or transfer of the land or other real property on which a nursing home is located.
“Given the epic tragedy we witnessed in our nursing homes, veterans homes and other long-term care facilities last spring during the height of the spread of the coronavirus, it is all too obvious that licensure requirements governing these facilities need closer scrutiny and more oversight and review going forward,” said Senator Weinberg (D-Bergen).
Both bills cleared committee by votes of 12-0.