Families of patients and residents of Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in Sussex County, New Jersey have filed a class-action lawsuit after news broke that the facility was keeping the bodies of those that died from COVID-19 in an onsite makeshift morgue. The “morgue” was a small room in the facility that, when discovered, contained 17 bodies piled up within it.
As stated in the lawsuit, “it has been widely reported that, at or around that time, many family members and other authorized representatives of residents were unable to get in contact with staff or other personnel of the facilities; in many cases, family members went multiple weeks without receiving any update as to the status of their loved ones.”
Andover’s handling of the novel coronavirus outbreak has been the subject of previous complaints. An inspection conducted in April of this year resulted in a report stating that the facility was “not following infection control safety practices and guidance recommended” by the CDC and other governmental health organizations. Fueled by a lack of adherence to health and safety standards, as many as 94 residents at Andover facilities died as the pandemic ravaged its population.
Medical workers wearing full protective gear were seen removing bodies from the Andover facility and loading them for transport. And, although the facility’s failure to take proper precautions to keep its residents safe is well documented, Andover appears to be trying to shift blame onto others for its failings.
“We monitored and complied with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines,” the facility said in a statement that seemingly directly contradicts the result of its inspections. “Despite all our efforts, the virus made its way into our facility, as it did in the majority of long-term care facilities across New Jersey. We took every possible step to handle this crisis internally while simultaneously making dozens of outreaches to local, state, and federal agencies for help.” The statement does not address whether any of those outreaches included requests for assistance in properly and respectfully tending to the bodies of those residents that had died.
The lawsuit names both Andover facilities operating in New Jersey, as well as a list of employees and businesses associated with them. In addition, the facility’s owners themselves are named and the plaintiff would like to name all Andover residents as members of the class in the lawsuit.