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Sweeney Offers Infection Prevention & Control Plans for Nursing Homes

Trenton – The state would develop an infection prevention and control plan for nursing homes according to legislation authored by Senate President Steve Sweeney that would have the state conduct an assessment of the current infrastructure to determine the upgrades needed to better protect the health and safety of residents and caregivers.

A companion bill would have state health officials develop infectious disease instructional programs for nurses who work in long-term care facilities. Both measures were introduced in the Senate today.

“We need a long-term strategy to ensure the nursing home industry in New Jersey is focused on the safety of residents and caregivers and the quality of services the facilities provide,” said Senator Sweeney. “This strategy should include design and construction standards for new facilities and for those undergoing significant modifications. The infrastructure has to promote and facilitate safe conditions so the practices and procedures are effective.”

The bill would have the Department of Health conduct a statewide assessment of the nursing home infection control and prevention infrastructure and, based on the findings, develop an improvement plan to prevent, contain and control the outbreak or spread of infectious diseases.

The plan would incorporate best practice standards in other states and establish specific goals and timelines for improvements that take into account the age of the facilities, the availability of land for expansion or new construction, the costs of improvements, and the authorizations that would be required.

The legislation lays out essential standards for review, including:

  • A count of the total number of single-resident rooms in nursing homes, the percentage of beds that are utilized in single-resident rooms, and a review of the ability of nursing homes to expand single room capacity;
  • A survey of the maintenance status of heating, ventilating, air conditioning, and refrigeration systems in nursing homes;
  • A study of the utilization of negative pressure rooms and other physical plant features intended to increase infection control and prevention capability; and,
  • Any other infrastructure-related considerations recommended by the New Jersey Task Force on Long-Term Care Quality and Safety.

The department would be required to consult with the nursing home industry, including for-profit and non-profit facilities, groups representing direct care providers and support staff in nursing homes, resident advocates, and the families of residents.

The assessment would have to be completed within one year of the effective date of the bill. The Health Department would then be required to develop the infection control and prevention plan no later than 180 days after the assessment is completed.

The companion legislation would have the Department of Health work with the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology to develop an infection prevention course specifically designed for registered nurses and certified nurse aides employed in long-term care facilities.

Under the bill, the Health Department and the Board of Nursing would review the nursing curriculum to develop methods to encourage nurses to enroll in post-acute care residency programs and determine if the curriculum should be modified to better prepare them to work in the field. It would also require the department to review the certification curriculum for certified nurse aides and to partner with the long term care industry to develop a pilot program to develop standards for their professional advancement.

“This will incorporate more infection control training into the education of nurses and nurse’s aides who work in post-acute and long-term care facilities,” said Senator Sweeney. “It will also create a more robust pipeline of these caregivers to go into and remain in the long-term care industry.”