Court orders change of control for Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center

The myriad health and safety violations, and staggering COVID death toll at the care center prompted an investigation that resulted in the court’s decision.

| 03 Jun 2022 | 01:10

The trouble at Woodland Behavioral and Nursing Center, formerly Andover Subacute, continues, now with a court-ordered receivership issued by a Superior Court Judge. This action means that control of the facility will be transferred over to a third party. In a statement, the New Jersey Department of Health explained that the receiver will control the facility’s finances and “ensure that the operations of the facility continue uninterrupted during this transition period.”

This action comes after the Department of Health found that the facility failed to maintain adequate staffing levels, as recommended by the Atlantic Health System, which was selected in March to monitor operations. Atlantic Health System will now work with the receiver to find a solution for these continued failures. The closure of the facility may still occur; however, no action to that effect has been announced at this time.

The court appointed Allen Wilen as the receiver. He works as a partner at EisnerAmper, one of the largest accounting, tax, and business advisory firms in the U.S.

“The receiver will ensure that employee paychecks are processed and staff retention policies and bonuses are implemented and will work with the state and other long-term care facilities to facilitate job placement for qualified individuals,” Wilen said.

“Ensuring the health, safety and dignity of the residents of this nursing home is the department’s highest priority,” said Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “The department appreciates the dedication and commitment of Woodland employees during this transition period.”

“The judge’s decision recognizes the unprecedented gravity of this situation,” Human Services Commissioner Sarah Adelman said. “We look forward to working with the receiver to ensure the best possible care for Woodland residents.”

During an inspection of the facility near the beginning of the year by the New Jersey Long-Term Care Ombudsman, which investigates allegations of abuse and neglect of residents in long-term care facilities, Woodland Behavioral was accused of failing to do CPR or calling 911 for unresponsive patients and failing to “provide lifesaving medicine for COVID patients.”

At least 83 residents have reportedly died of COVID in the facility to date. The nursing home has a long-term care bed capacity of 543, but it currently has about 360 residents.

Once news of the receivership order was issued, U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) applauded the move. Earlier this year, Gottheimer began publicly pushing for the facility to be immediately shut down, and Gottheimer stated that if the facility couldn’t properly care for seniors, then it needed to be investigated and revamped or closed.

In January, Gottheimer asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to take action to remedy the issues at the nursing home, as the facility experienced the worst COVID-19 omicron outbreak in New Jersey at the time. Gottheimer requested an update on the facility’s compliance with corrective actions that were supposed to be put in place following the May 2020 CMS inspection.

“I refuse to stand by while Jersey seniors are put at risk. It’s clear that investigations, fines, and promises of improvement from the current owners of Andover Subacute haven’t been enough. After I sounded the alarm earlier this year, I’m glad to see New Jersey now moving forward to change control at the facility,” said Gottheimer in a statement. “Families should have confidence that older relatives and veterans will be well cared for in their later years, whether residing in private or state-run long-term care facilities.”

During the beginning of the pandemic, in April 2020, a police inspection of the Woodland Behavioral found 17 bodies piled in a morgue that only had space for four, which prompted further investigation and a civil penalty of $220,235, among other actions.

The governor’s office also issued a statement in response to the court order, saying that the “will continue to closely monitor the situation and will hold meetings with staff, residents, families, and resident right’s advocates in the coming days to provide support and clear communication on the status of this situation.”

“Our state agencies have maintained careful oversight and partnered with a reputable health system to provide guidance toward addressing the issues plaguing this facility. Yet it has become crystal clear that the people running this nursing home refuse to take responsibility for the people in their care,” said NJ Governor Phil Murphy. “New Jersey will not tolerate long-term care facility operators who cannot provide the care our most vulnerable residents need and deserve. Our state agencies will employ the greatest authority we have to prevent these operators from continuing to place the residents of this nursing home in jeopardy, and will work towards ensuring a continuation of care on behalf of the more than 360 individuals in this home.”

New Jersey Long-Term Care Ombudsman Laurie Brewer added, “Conditions at Woodland remain poor for the residents who live there and for the dedicated direct care staff who work there. The people living at Woodland deserve capable, committed leadership from facility operators who value their autonomy, dignity and quality of life, yet current leadership has clearly failed to even marginally turn things around. I applaud the state for taking this necessary step.”