TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey state senators are threatening to issue subpoenas after the owners of a medical center failed to show up at a committee hearing on the deadly respiratory virus outbreak that has claimed the lives of 11 children.
Officials last month confirmed that an 11th child died from an adenovirus virus outbreak at Wanaque Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Haskell, N.J.
The owners of the Wanaque Nursing and Rehabilitation Center had been invited to join New Jersey health officials Monday to discuss how and why the viral outbreak inside the pediatric unit has raged for two months.
There have been 35 pediatric cases of adenovirus during the outbreak from Sept. 26 to Nov. 21, each afflicting children with already compromised immune systems.
During inspections, the Health Department found improper infection control practices, such as hand washing. The commissioner says the virus spread quickly because the facility didn't have rooms available to separate the sick.
A group representing nurses at the Wanaque center testified that the facility was not properly staffed or trained to properly handle infectious diseases.
"One of our most sacred responsibilities as public servants is to protect New Jersey's most vulnerable residents from harm, especially innocent children," said Sen. Gerald Cardinale.
Cardinale and Assemblywomen Holly T. Schepisi proposed new legislation for to cohort patients who exhibit signs of potentially contagious infections. Cohorting is the practice of grouping patients with the same infection together in a segregated area.
"Cohorted patients are often treated by dedicated staffers who do not treat other patients," said Cardinale. "This practice helps prevent those who are sick, or their caregivers, from transmitting infectious diseases to other patients who may be susceptible.
"Every parent of every patient deserves to know that their children will be safe when entrusted to a pediatric hospital for care, and we're going to force those facilities to develop plans that provide that assurance," he said. "Without my legislation, many medically-fragile children in the care of the state will continue to be at risk."
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