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Health officials release report from surprise inspection of N.J. health facility where 9 kids died in viral outbreak

HASKELL, NJ (Passaic County) – The New Jersey Department of Health released Tuesday the final report from the October 21 unannounced inspection of the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, where nine children died in a severe viral outbreak and more than a dozen others sickened.

There were no new cases or additional deaths reported on Tuesday.

Health officials had previously reported on preliminary findings of the visit, however the full extent of the survey needed to be assessed by inspection staff.

According to Centers Medicare & Medicaid Services standards, the facility had deficiencies that did not indicate substandard care was delivered.

“Now that the report is finalized, certain findings raise questions about whether these general longterm care standards are optimal for this vulnerable population of medically fragile children,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “I will be engaging in collaborative discussions with CMS to assess how we can better align standards for theses pediatric longterm care facilities”

As of November 28, 2019, CMS will implement new longterm care regulations that will require longterm care facilities to have an on-site infection preventionist responsible for the facility’s infection prevention control program.

“I am encouraged by this new CMS requirement. We also need to think about whether there is more we can do as healthcare leaders to protect immunocompromised children, such as those served at Wanaque Center,” added Dr. Elnahal.

“The Department didn’t wait for the final results of the inspection to take action to improve infection control at Wanaque Center,” said Dr. Elnahal. “The Department has been working closely with the facility on infection control issues since the outbreak was reported, on Oct. 9, including having a member of the agency’s Communicable Disease Service onsite at the facility. Additionally, in November, we are deploying a team of infection control experts and epidemiologists to conduct training and assessments of infection control procedures at Wanaque and similar facilities.”

The team will visit University Hospital, Wanaque Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation in Haskell, Voorhees Pediatric Facility in Voorhees, and Children’s Specialized Hospital in Toms River and Mountainside. The Department reached out to the facilities last week to schedule visits in November.

“Every year in the state, there are hundreds of outbreaks at healthcare facilities,” the Commissioner added. “Facility outbreaks are not always preventable, but best practices can be used to minimize the chance they occur among the most vulnerable patients in New Jersey,”

According to the Department’s Division of Health Facility Survey and Field Operations infection control issues rank in the top three of deficiencies cited during healthcare facility inspections. Infection control is a top deficiency for nursing homes and hospitals nationally, according to CMS.

The Department will continue to support education of longterm care providers to enhance care quality. Since October 2016, $102,915 has been dedicated to educating 212 nursing home staff in infection control through a partnership with New Jersey Hospital Association and the Northern & Southern NJ Chapters of Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology. The training makes a significant contribution to nursing home resident’s quality of care and facilities’ infection prevention control practices. It also increases nursing homes’ ability to affect changes in procedures, which can reduce unnecessary hospitalizations due to infections.

The final inspection report and summary of the inspection visit are posted to the Department’s website.

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By: Jay Edwards Follow on Twitter | Like on Facebook