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Vitale/Weinberg Bill To Help Prevent Injury To Patients And Care Givers Clears Senate

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Loretta Weinberg which would create the “Safe Patient Handling Act,” and require health care facilities to establish guidelines for safe patient handling was unanimously approved today by the full Senate.

“When enacted, this bill will create a win-win situation for patients and health care workers by working to cut down on the risk of injury,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Services Committee. “In order for the program to be effective, it is imperative that safe patient handling plans be developed, implemented and closely monitored to make sure that they are working properly.”

“This legislation would establish necessary guidelines to help protect both patients and the workers who care for them,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “The risk of injury is always there when dealing with transporting patients but the safety guidelines set up in this bill would work to reduce the number and severity of these injuries, for all parties involved.”

The Senators’ bill, S-1758, would require New Jersey’s hospitals, nursing homes, developmental centers and psychiatric hospitals to establish and implement a safe patient handling program to help protect patients and staff from injury.

Under the bill, facilities would have 12 months to establish a safe patient handling committee, which would in turn be responsible for the development, implementation, evaluation and possible revision of the safe handling program. The evaluation would include annual assessments of patient handling equipment, including electric beds, hoists used to lift patients and bathing assistance devices. The membership of each committee would consist of health care employees and others trained in safe patient handling procedures.

The safe patient handling program would be established for all units and shifts of each facility, and would take into account patients’ physical and mental condition. The safe handling policy would have to include a statement allowing patients to refuse assistance by facility employees. Facilities would also be required to assess the safety of patient handling and assistive devices.

Health care facilities would have three years from the date of enactment to establish and begin training employees in safe patient handling program guidelines. The facilities would be required to maintain a detailed description of the program and its components, and to submit a copy to the Department of Health and Senior Services of to the Department of Human Services. A program description would also be made available to health care facility workers. A copy of each facility’s safe patient handling policy would have to be posted in a location easily visible to staff, patients and visitors. Each facility would also have to provide educational materials for patients and their families to help familiarize them with the safe handling program.

Facilities would be required to make recommendations for a three-year plan to purchase additional patient handling equipment that meets the safe handling guidelines.

This measure was approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee on December 14, 2006. The Senate Budget and Appropriations panel approved the bill on December 3, 2007. It now heads to the Assembly for approval.


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