In December 2019, Sharon Farrell flew from Florida to visit her brother Stephen at a New Jersey nursing home, where, she said, she found “disgusting” conditions. "I told the nurse, 'I am calling the state,'" she said. "I’m paying $9,000 a month, and I wouldn’t let my dog live like this."
He died fourth months later of COVID-19, which spread rapidly inside the facility and claimed at least 83 lives. It has been 19 months since the discovery of 17 bodies in a tiny morgue at the Andover Subacute II nursing home in Sussex County, New Jersey, in April 2020. The federal government fined the owners $221,115 for not being in "substantial compliance," and the attorney general’s office began an investigation.
But the owners are still in business. They changed the names of Andover and its sister facility and installed new signs out front. As of Friday, there were 25 residents of Andover with COVID-19, according to state data.
And the owners are still being paid by Medicare and Medicaid, the taxpayer-funded programs that pay most costs for U.S. nursing home operators — even though one of the owners, Louis Schwartz, helped run a chain called Skyline Healthcare, which collapsed in 2019 amid accusations of neglect and financial mismanagement, which the chain denied.
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In a statement, the owners of Andover, now known as Woodland Behavioral, said that "the safety and health of our residents has always been the top priority for Woodland Behavioral," adding: "The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges, and our heroic staff faced those challenges as best as they could. We continue to thank them for everything they did (and continue to do) to protect our residents."