Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5a)
On April 30, 2020, working with Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5), Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9), and NJ Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (NJ DMVA) Brigadier General Jemal Beale, some of the top COVID-19 experts and physicians in the country have agreed to consult with medical staff at the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home beginning today, where 98% of residents have either tested positive for COVID-19, are awaiting COVID-19 test results, or are currently hospitalized.
Gottheimer, Pascrell, and Beale announced these new steps today to help protect the health and safety of veterans and staff at this state-run veterans home and to push for increased transparency into this outbreak, where 59 residents and one staff member have died from COVID-19.
Doctors and infectious disease experts from North Jersey hospitals — including the Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, Hackensack Meridian Health, Holy Name Medical Center, and Valley Hospital — will consult with the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home’s medical team to review protocols, collaborate on best practices, and help triage residents with pressing medical needs.
In recent months, these hospitals and doctors have cared for tens of thousands of COVID-19 patients in North Jersey and have learned and seen first-hand how to combat this virus. They have literally been in the eye of the storm and bring a bevy of first-hand experience.
“The health crisis taking place at this facility has been devastating, heartbreaking, and utterly unacceptable. The loss of life here is an unspeakable tragedy for the North Jersey community. This assistance and guidance from some of the top coronavirus experts and doctors in the country will be critical to fight this outbreak, help limit further loss of life, and protect these veterans and the facility’s staff,” said Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5). “There is nothing more sacred than the commitment our nation has to caring for those who have served and protected our country. North Jersey was in the first wave of coronavirus cases in the country, so these doctors, who’ve been fighting this virus for months, will be using all of that experience and insight to help protect those who need it most.”
“We need to figure out what the hell went wrong in Paramus,” said Congressman Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-9). “Our office has heard heartbreaking stories of families getting no information about their loved one. How would you feel? Given the unconscionable situation in Paramus it was past time for outside doctors to be called in to evaluate the residents. Their help will save lives. Our veterans deserve the best treatment and they have not been getting it. The VA’s generous support from Washington is vital because this facility needs all the help it can get and more. We need answers. All of us are disappointed. All of us are angry. We can do better. For our neighbors, for our families, for our vets, for our heroic doctors and nurses – we must do better.”
“The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs appreciates the outreach of elected officials, the local hospitals, and the community during this pandemic,” said Walter Nall, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Veterans Affairs of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “COVID-19 has affected the entire nation and long-term care facilities in particular have been dealing with disproportionate infection rates. Veterans are fighters by nature, and they know that tough times don’t last, but tough teams do. The medical professionals of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and New Jersey Department of Health are working alongside Citizen-Soldiers and Airmen of the New Jersey National Guard to bolster the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home team of nurses and staff. The blended team is working day and night to save lives and ensure that every veteran, spouse, or Gold Star family member is receiving the best care possible.”
Upon learning of the outbreak at this facility, on April 10th, Gottheimer and Pascrell contacted the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the VA Inspector General requesting they open an immediate federal investigation and take additional measures to protect remaining residents. Following Gottheimer and Pascrell’s requests for assistance and additional personnel, the VA then announced that 90 nurses would be sent to support the veterans’ facilities throughout New Jersey, including the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home. The Department of Veterans Affairs also has skilled nurses and doctors in the facility.
Following Gottheimer and Pascrell’s requests, and coordination with the State, there are also now 40 NJ National Guard medics assisting at the Paramus Veterans Memorial Home.
Gottheimer and Pascrell have continued to demand answers and accountability on behalf of all residents, veterans, and their families.
The current status of COVID-19 outbreaks in New Jersey’s veterans homes from the NJ DMVA can be found here.