About one-third of New Jersey’s nursing homes were cited for infection control deficiencies in 2017, according to Manatt Health’s review of the state’s long-term care industry earlier this year.
Assembly Democrats Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, and Nicholas Chiaravalloti sponsor legislation (A-4855) to require the New Jersey Department of Health to assess infection control and prevention policies and develop a statewide plan to improve existing systems. The bill was signed into law on Monday.
“Though no one could have anticipated the challenges COVID-19 would bring to New Jersey, many nursing homes were unequipped to mitigate the spread of the virus early on because they didn’t have adequate infection control policies or resources,” said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “A statewide assessment of nursing homes will help us develop a uniform approach to infection control and guide a more cohesive response to better protect our most vulnerable going forward.”
DOH’s assessment would include:
- a count of the total single-resident rooms in nursing homes throughout the State, including a percentage of total nursing home beds utilized in single-resident rooms, as well as a review of nursing homes’ capacity to expand single-resident room availability;
- a survey of the maintenance status of heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems in nursing homes;
- an assessment of how widely negative pressure rooms and other physical plant features designed to increase infection control and prevention throughout nursing homes; and
- assessments of any other infrastructure-related infection control or prevention considerations recommended by the New Jersey Task Force on Long-Term Care Quality and Safety, as this bill requires the department to request recommendations from the task force.
“After the tragedies, we saw in nursing homes last spring, it became abundantly clear that our long-term care industry needed swift and comprehensive reform. We all can agree that residents and their families deserved far better,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “We must learn from our past missteps and pursue a path forward that prioritizes resident safety and high-quality care.”
“To build a stronger, more resilient long-term care system, we’ll need to evaluate our resources and identify areas for improvement. That’s exactly what this bill aims to accomplish,” said Chiaravalloti (D-Hudson). “As we continue to combat COVID-19, it’s never been more important to better prepare our nursing homes to keep residents safe.”
DOH would develop a statewide plan for improvement within 180 days after the assessment is complete. The goal would be to establish standards and requirements for improvements and a long-term strategy to redesign the nursing home industry to promote resident safety. It would review best practices in other states and create specific timelines for improvement.