New Jersey’s Gottheimer, Smith Push Federal Legislation for Nursing Homes

New Jersey congressmen on the opposite sides of the aisle are introducing federal legislation mandating long-term care facility requirements.

Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Chris Smith’s Nursing Home Pandemic Protection Act of 2020 would codify into federal law new requirements that nursing homes report communicable diseases, infections, and potential outbreaks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); residents and their families be kept informed of infections inside the facilities; require facilities to have a crisis plan in place to manage an outbreak; and a stockpile of personal protect equipment (PPE) on site.

North Jersey Hard Hit

“New Jersey continues to be at the epicenter of this outbreak, and the crises taking place in our state’s long-term care facilities are absolutely heartbreaking,” said Gottheimer. “When this virus hits these vulnerable populations, it can spread like wildfire, and I’ve heard too many stories from across North Jersey that facility workers didn’t have the PPE they needed and that families didn’t know their loved ones might be infected until it was too late.”

As of May 6, New Jersey health officials reported 512 long-term care facilities are reporting at least one case of COVID-19 and accounted for 23,345 of the cases and 4,261 of the total deaths. 

Transparency, Accountability

“The Trump Administration’s new reporting requirements for long-term care facilities represent a major step forward in providing greater transparency and accountability and making these requirements permanent law ensures that key protocols to protect residents and help family members will remain in place long after the coronavirus pandemic,” said Smith, a senior member of the congressional committee that oversees global health issues.

The congressmen’s law requires collection of communicable diseases, infections, and potential outbreaks that will be used to support surveillance of COVID-19 locally and nationally, monitor trends in infection rates, and inform public health policies and actions. 

Communication Standards

In regards to communication standards, facilities at a minimum must inform residents and their families within 12 hours of the occurrence of a single confirmed infection of COVID-19, or three or more residents or staff with new-onset of respiratory symptoms that occur within 72 hours. 

Following the initial update, residents and their families must be provided weekly, or each subsequent time a confirmed infection of COVID-19 is identified and/or whenever three or more residents or staff with new respiratory symptoms occur within 72 hours.

“With this new bill, we’re working to ensure facilities are adequately prepared with crisis plans in place, that they’re reporting outbreaks to our nation’s top infectious disease experts, and that residents and their loved ones are regularly updated on conditions inside these homes,” said Gottheimer. 

Crisis Plans

Long-term care facilities crisis plans are to outline procedures relating to infection control, staffing, PPE, outside medical providers and hospitalizations, and communication with family members. 

In regards to PPE’s, facilities must maintain a certain minimum amount on hand to manage an outbreak of COVID-19 or other pandemics.

“Throughout this outbreak in North Jersey, I’ve been laser focused on ensuring our seniors, veterans, and residents in long-term care facilities are getting the care they need, pushing the state, (Health and Human Services), (Veterans Affairs), and National Guard for more sources and staff and stronger oversight,” said  Gottheimer.

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