Legislation Prompted by Deadly Outbreak at Wanaque Facility

(TRENTON) – Taking action in response to the adenovirus 7 outbreak that led to 11 deaths and 36 infections at The Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation last fall, a bill that would require long-term care facilities to have outbreak control plans in place was given final approval by the full Assembly Thursday 74-0. It will now go to the Governor for further consideration.

The bill (A-5527) is designed to contain respiratory illness outbreaks and would require the Department of Health to mandate the development and submission of the outbreak response plan. Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Jr., MD (D-Burlington), Christopher Tully and Lisa Swain (both D-Bergen, Passaic) are sponsors of the measure and issued the following joint statement:

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“There are parents, grandparents, siblings, other family members and friends who are still dealing with the loss, emptiness and sadness of their loved one dying or becoming severely sickened as a result of this outbreak. While everyone mourns differently, they will most likely be dealing with this pain for the rest of their lives.

“Although this measure cannot erase their pain, it does put a system in place to ensure sure that these facilities are prepared and equipped to deal with an adenovirus 7 and other outbreaks. It specifically mandates that the plan be customized to the facility, meets national standards, and be developed in consultation with an infection control committee at the facility consisting of personnel who are trained, credentialed and experienced in infection control.
          “These steps are crucially important to protecting the health and well-being of the current residents at these facilities. They are also just as important to the families whose loved ones perished or were sickened, because it lets them know that their loss and suffering are not in vain.

“While outbreaks such as the one at the Wanaque facility are largely preventable through hand washing and other infection control practices, there is still a risk that outbreaks can occur--particularly at long-term care facilities.     
          “This legislation gives the public peace of mind that their loved ones in long-term care facilities are being cared for by people who are prepared to respond as quickly and appropriately as possible in the event of this type of health emergency.”