Veterans teams rally on the Menlo Park veterans dwelling after 62 residents died of Covid-19 on September 16, 2020.


Greater than 100 veterans, healthcare staff and relations of residents who died of COVID-19 rallied outdoors the state-run veterans dwelling in Menlo Park Wednesday, demanding an investigation and the resignation of native managers.

Households and union members mentioned administration’s orders to cease sporting face masks throughout the early days of the coronavirus pandemic led the Edison Township facility to amass one of many worst dying tolls amongst nursing houses in New Jersey.

“You couldn’t have prevented COVID however you might have prevented it from changing into a wildfire,” mentioned Shirley Suddoth-Lewis, president of the native chapter of AFSCME, the union representing nurses aides and different staff.


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Sixty-two residents and one caregiver have died for the reason that begin of the pandemic on the 312-bed dwelling in Menlo Park. One other state-run veterans heart in Paramus leads all nursing houses within the state with 81 residents and one employees member misplaced throughout the outbreak.

The 2 websites haven’t had a casualty or a brand new case in at the least two months, in response to a overview of knowledge. 


Gov. Phil Murphy, whose administration runs the houses, mentioned Wednesday that there shall be a “full accounting” on the services – a phrase he has used usually for months however has not offered any particulars on what precisely it entails.

“I do not blame people for being upset for one second,” he mentioned at his COVID-19 briefing when requested concerning the rally. “We now have full sympathy.”

“We want to ensure we maintain a mirror as much as [the facilities] and to ourselves,” Murphy added.


In mid-August, a resident of the Menlo Park dwelling and veterans advocates delivered searing testimony at a state legislative hearing, the place they mentioned administration had refused to permit caregivers to put on masks and gloves within the early days of the pandemic.

That corroborated what many staffers and households at each veterans’ houses have told the USA Today Network New Jersey for the reason that coronavirus outbreak started in March and tore by long-term care facilities in mid-April.


Amongst those that died was Menlo Park nurse’s aide Monemise Romelus. Her son mentioned Romelus, who was 61, was not given private protecting gear till it was too late.

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The revelations on the listening to in Trenton lead state Sen. Joseph Vitale, chairman of the chamber’s well being committee, to name for the resignation of Menlo Park CEO Elizabeth Schiff-Heedles.

Murphy’s administration has issued statements backing Schiff-Heedles and Paramus CEO Matthew Schottlander, however has declined to elaborate on their efficiency, citing dozens of pending lawsuits in opposition to the Division of Army and Veterans Affairs.

The pinnacle of the state VFW has referred to as for a legal investigation into the Menlo Park and Paramus deaths following tales by and the USA TODAY NETWORK New Jersey that documented how the virus probably unfold quickly by the services on account of disturbing practices and questionable choices.


A report commissioned by the Murphy’s administration this spring on deficiencies at nursing houses didn’t point out the Menlo Park or Paramus houses regardless of their excessive dying toll.

In a go to to the Paramus web site from April 19 to 22, federal well being inspectors recognized an infection management breaches and defective procedures that, amongst different failures, led to the misidentification of a deceased veteran’s physique. The breakdowns positioned all the house’s residents in “speedy jeopardy” of life-threatening sickness, the inspectors mentioned.

Federal officers earlier this month fined the Paramus home $21,393. The Murphy administration mentioned it could attraction. 

Employees Author Dustin Racioppi contributed to this text.


Scott Fallon covers the setting for To get limitless entry to the most recent information about how New Jersey’s setting impacts your well being and well-being,  please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

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