The New Jersey Veterans Home Memorial Home at Menlo Park in Middlesex County is accepting admissions again after the Health Department said the state-run facility had improved its infection control strategies and made key personnel changes, the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs announced Tuesday.
In November, the state Health Department suspended admissions, and federal regulators suspended funding for new admissions after state inspections revealed conditions that put residents in “immediate jeopardy.” The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services also has threatened to withhold future money — a move that would force the veteran home’s closure.
Admissions resumed on Tuesday, according to Maj. Agneta Murnan, the spokeswoman for Military and Veterans Affairs said. One person moved in, bringing the population to 187 residents at the nursing home, she said.
“With these and other ongoing efforts, DMAVA will continue to work to improve quality of life, enhance safety, and implement best practices in this home,” a statement from Murnan said. “The Department remains committed to a continuous evaluation of the care we provide our Veterans, Veteran’s spouses, and Gold Star Family members, and will not stop striving to provide the residents of Menlo Park with the highest possible quality of care.”
A spokesperson for the federal government did not immediately respond to questions regarding whether the agency had walked back its threat to terminate the facility from the Medicaid and Medicare programs, nor whether it had sent a letter communicating that it agreed the facility was in compliance.
In December, the health department dispatched a group of long-term care professionals known as a “mission critical” team to intervene, at the request of Brig. Gen. Lisa J. Hou, the Adjutant General of New Jersey and Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs.
A COVID-19 outbreak that began Thanksgiving week in 2021 is still active. A total of 121 residents and 294 employees having been infected, and 15 residents have died during the period, according to the state Health Department COVID website’s most recent data, from Feb. 8.
The facility’s CEO was replaced in December and a nurse practitioner was hired to serve as director of nursing. The department also signed contracts to bring four specialists on board — two infection control consultants, one nursing consultant and one administrative consultant, Murnan said.
In early January, the health department declared the “immediate jeopardy” over but did not allow new admissions.
Military and Veterans Affairs named Lisa Kranis, a licensed nursing home administrator, has been interim CEO since Dec. 21.
“We welcome additional third-party expertise and fresh eyes to help implement critical changes,” Hou said in a statement Tuesday night. “Professional and community partnerships contribute daily to our residents’ quality of life.”
Meanwhile, the department continues to review bids “to provide interim supervisory staff and consulting services at Menlo Park,” Murnan’s statement said. Gov. Phil Murphy directed the request for proposals for outside managers and consultants; the department closed submissions on Jan. 31.
All three of the veterans homes — located in Edison, Vineland and Paramus — are under review for improvements, her statement said.
The Murphy Administration has paid out collectively nearly $69 million to settle lawsuits filed by the families of 190 deceased veterans homes residents from Menlo Park and Paramus. The lawsuits had accused the state of negligence in allowing the disease to run rampant inside the facilities, but the cases were settled without the state admitting to any wrongdoing.
A federal investigation into the deaths at the facilities, meanwhile, is still ongoing, as are two separate state investigations.
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