On the heels of a new report detailing incompetence and abuse at the state run Veterans Memorial Home at Menlo Park, Gov. Phil Murphy is finally taking action.

Murphy announced Thursday that he is sending "a Mission Critical Team of experienced health care administrators and infection preventionists" to the facility.

State inspectors issued a finding of "immediate jeopardy," which means a threat to the lives of residents receiving care at the facility. Despite that finding, state officials took no immediate action and kept the facility open. State officials claimed a corrective action plan has been filed by the facility and it remains open.

In a statement, Murphy said, "We must, and will, hold State-owned facilities to the same standards we hold privately-owned long-term care facilities."

That did not appear to be the case, however, as reports of abuse and sub-standard care at Menlo Park grew.

State official moved quickly to shut down the privately owned Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center in Andover after inspectors found patients in "immediate jeopardy."

In his first formal response to the findings at Menlo Park, Murphy said, "The Department of Health's inspection of the Veterans Memorial Home at Menlo Park has given us crucial insight into the challenges currently facing this facility."

Among the incidents cited in a 300-page report:

  • A patient who was abused by staff after asking for his medication
  • A nurse who caused severe illness in a patient after improperly removing a catheter
  • A doctor who detailed multiple incidents of lack of education of staff and mishandling of patient care
  • Improper infection controls to prevent a new COVID outbreak

Despite the findings of state inspectors, the state has not moved to shut down the facility and Menlo Park remains open to new residents.

The three-person team of specialists now being sent to Menlo Park by the state is charged with collaborating "with the facility leaders and staff to improve quality of care through mentoring, coaching, and sharing of operational and clinical best practices."

According to the governor's office, the team will spend "a minimum of one month at the Menlo Park facility, reviewing all processes and embedding best practices for long-term and ongoing improvements."

How the state handled COVID at New Jersey's three veterans homes has been the subject of much criticism, dozens of lawsuits and multiple state and federal investigations.

With more than 200 deaths of residents and staff, New Jersey reported among the highest fatality rates in the nation as the pandemic spread.

Eric Scott is the senior political director and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at eric.scott@townsquaremedia.com

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