Vitale/Weinberg ‘Safe Patient Handling Act’ Receives Final Legislative Approval

TRENTON – A measure sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Loretta Weinberg which would require health care facilities to establish guidelines for safe patient handling received final legislative approval today by the full Assembly, by a vote of 77-3.

“The goal of this bill is to cut down on the risk of injury to patients and care givers,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “The effectiveness of the program lies in its development, implementation and monitoring. Health care facilities must develop realistic patient handling plans and the Departments of Health and Senior Services and Human Services must maintain an active role in monitoring the programs. This must be a joint effort.”

“It is way past time for New Jersey to adopt safe handling legislation that helps to protect patients and those who care for them,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, who is a member of the Senate Health panel. “There is always a risk of injury when dealing with transporting patients, but this bill would set up safety guidelines to help reduce the number and the severity of the 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.

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 and 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 received unanimous approval from the full Senate on December 10. It now heads to the Governor’s desk where his signature would make it state law.

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