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Long-term care facilities must have outbreak response plans under new law

NJBIZ - 9/10/2019

Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday signed legislation that will compel certain health care facilities to submit outbreak response plans to the Department of Health.
Assembly Bill 5527, requiring certain long-term care facilities to develop an outbreak response plan within 180 days after the bill’s effective date, comes in the wake of last year’s deadly Adenovirus outbreak at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, a long-term care facility for severely ill children.
“Although nearly a year has passed since the tragic outbreak in Wanaque, we have not forgotten about the 11 children who were taken from us far too soon,” said Murphy in a statement. “I am proud to sign legislation today requiring long-term care facilities to have outbreak plans in place to reduce the chances of a similar tragedy from ever happening again.”
These plans will include protocols for isolating infected and at-risk patients in the case of an outbreak, policies for notification of family and staff, and more requirements for containing outbreaks.
The legislation further requires facilities like Wanaque that care for particularly vulnerable, ventilator-dependent residents to submit a more detailed response plan to the DOH for review.
“Breaches in infection control practices are a major contributing factor in the spread of disease in health care facilities,” said Acting Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Outbreak response plans help facilities remain aware of the need to contact and work with public health to implement practices to minimize further spread of disease.”
Primary sponsors of the legislation include Assembly Members Herb Conaway Jr., D-7th District; Christopher Tully, D-38th District; and Lisa Swain, D-38th District; and Sens. Joseph Vitale, D-19th District, and Troy Singleton, D-7th District.
“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 occurparticularly at long-term care facilities. This new law 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,” said Assembly bill sponsors in a joint statement.
“The situation that spawned this bill is heartbreaking,” said Vitale. “We wanted to do everything we could to prevent this from happening again. Implementing an outbreak response plan in case of emergency is good policy and even better practice and I am glad the Governor decided to take action on this today.”
Labor groups representing health care workers praised the signing of the bill.
"For the health and safety of every patient and health care worker, it is essential for facilities to be prepared in the event of an infection disease outbreak,” said Debbie White, president of Health Professionals and Allied Employees. “This law will now provide oversight to ensure that long term care facilities have a plan to respond immediately to a potential threat."
“The health care workers of 1199 SEIU applaud Gov. Murphy and the Legislature for enacting bipartisan legislation to ensure that nursing homes protect patients during viral outbreaks,” said Milly Silva, executive vice president of 1199 SEIU. “In a state where tens of thousands of vulnerable people, young and old, rely on 24/7 nursing care, it is vital that we champion their health and well-being and insist on the highest standards of compassionate care.”

CREDIT: Anthony Vecchione