Doctor and senior woman wearing facemasks during coronavirus and flu outbreak. Virus protection. COVID-2019..

One provider advocate stressed the importance of nursing homes not being afraid to seek help with COVID-19 after the bodies of more than a dozen residents were discovered at a New Jersey facility over the weekend. 

“Facilities must reach out and ask for help from local emergency management, the state, associations, anyone, when lives or the treatment of those we lost are at stake,” Jon Dolan, president and CEO of the Health Care Association of New Jersey, told McKnight’s Thursday. 

New Jersey authorities removed 17 bodies from a mortuary building outside of the Andover Rehabilitation and Subacute Care I and II facilities in Andover, NJ. Andover II is the largest Medicaid facility in the state and has a capacity of more than 500 beds, while Andover I has nearly 160 beds.

There have been 57 total deaths — 26 coronavirus-related — at the facility as of Wednesday, according to data from Sussex County, NJ. Data also shows that about 80 people in the two buildings have tested positive for COVID-19, including more than 40 staff members.

Dolan said, from his understanding, the facilities suffered 13 deaths overnight between Sunday and Monday and the bodies were placed in the mortuary building. It holds up to four bodies normally and has maximum capacity of 12, he noted. Funeral operations were also delayed due to the deaths occurring after hours, which led to crisis. 

The facilities’ medical director was aware of the situation and was trying to secure funeral home services for the deceased residents, Dolan noted. They had also begun reaching to a local hospital as a backup measure. 

He also noted that over the weekend the state found the buildings had inadequate levels of staffing and as of Thursday, the buildings were staffed at adequate levels, according to the state. 

An Andover representative had called for assistance in a deleted Facebook post, The New York Times reported. 

“To all the people calling into the governor’s office, the congressman’s office to help us tell them WE NEED HELP,” the post read on Monday. It was later deleted by Wednesday. 

Dolan said that proper planning and emergency preparedness will help prevent similar situations in the future, while again stressing to providers to seek help when needed. He also called for authorities to treat long-term care colleagues the same as their “heroic” colleagues in hospitals. 

“This is still a tragic and uncalled-for circumstance,” Dolan said.  “Residents, families and the public deserve better and providers must do better.” 

“Situations like this can be avoided by good advance care planning. Long-term care residents should have advance directives, living wills, powers of attorney, POLST (Provider Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) orders if applicable, and pre-arrange their funerals. Their wishes should be clear and well-documented,” Jim McCracken, president and CEO of LeadingAge New Jersey & Delaware, added.