Amid pandemic-fueled allegations of misconduct, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal on May 5 asked for the public’s help with investigating alleged misconduct in residential care facilities and nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The AG made the statement during Gov. Phil Murphy’s daily press briefing, and the AG’s statement was followed by an announcement that the state would deploy 120 National Guard soldiers to residential care facilities throughout the state. The soldiers are intended to “backfill the need they are not able to fill on their own,” according to the Governor.
The public plea from New Jersey’s top law enforcement official followed his April 16 announcement that the Office of the Attorney General had opened a statewide investigation into the high number of deaths at residential care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. The investigation is focused on whether any individuals or entities broke the law and should face civil or criminal penalties for their actions – or failures to take action – during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Anonymous Tips Solicited
In the May 5, 2020 press briefing, the AG also announced the launch of a website where New Jersey residents can provide firsthand information regarding alleged misconduct in nursing homes. Visitors to the website who seek to report an issue at a residential care facility are requested to fill out a form and provide any documentation demonstrating alleged illegal activity or other misconduct involving any New Jersey-based residential care facility during the COVID-19 pandemic. The website allows tipsters to remain anonymous.
The investigation was previously said to be focused on determining if there was a disproportionate number of deaths in any particular nursing home. During the press briefing on May 5 however, the AG appeared to expand the investigation by broadly asking for tips on any wrongful conduct that anyone witnessed residential care facilities.
The AG made clear that he is looking back at past acts and will hold parties accountable if anything criminal happened. Gov. Murphy has emphasized that residential care facilities like nursing homes have been a primary concern for the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Proactive Steps Should Begin Now
Sometimes the best defense is a good, proactive offense. Residential Care Facilities should not wait for a formal inquiry or subpoena from authorities to begin undertaking measures that will best position the facility to withstand investigative scrutiny.
Long before investigators are “at the front door,” managers of long-term care facilities must ensure that they are adhering to applicable law. If issues do develop, swift internal review of such matters through properly structured internal investigations can make a difference in the ultimate outcome of the inquiry.