Governor Phil Murphy

Governor Murphy Signs Legislation Requiring Outbreak Response Plans at Long-Term Care Facilities

08/15/2019

TRENTON – Governor Phil Murphy today signed A5527 into law, which will require certain long-term care facilities to submit outbreak response plans to the Department of Health. The legislation follows 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 eleven children who were taken from us far too soon,” said Governor Murphy. “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.”

“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.”

A5527 requires certain long-term care facilities to develop an outbreak response plan within 180 days after the bill’s effective date. 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.

Primary sponsors of the legislation include Assemblymembers Herb Conaway Jr, Christopher P. Tully, and Lisa Swain, and Senators Joseph Vitale and Troy Singleton.

“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 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 Senator Joseph Vitale. “When 11 children passed away at Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation last year, New Jersey was devastated. 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.”

“Last fall, tragedy befell the families of eleven children who passed away during an Adenovirus outbreak at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation. During the outbreak, dozens more were infected too. This is inexcusable and incomprehensible,” said Senator Troy Singleton. “Long term care facilities must have proper response guidelines when outbreaks occur so that what happened last year can never, ever happen again, anywhere in New Jersey.”

"For the health and safety of every patient and healthcare worker, it is essential for facilities to be prepared in the event of an infection disease outbreak,” said Debbie White, RN, President of HPAE. “This law will now provide oversight to ensure that long term care facilities have a plan to respond immediately to a potential threat.

“The healthcare workers of 1199SEIU 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 1199SEIU. “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 wellbeing and insist on the highest standards of compassionate care.”