Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-39) today testified at the Senate Health and Human Services Committee Hearing addressing the deadly viral outbreak at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, a facility with his legislative district.
During the hearing, Senator Cardinale called for action on his recently-introduced legislation to require cohorting at pediatric care facilities Statewide, to prevent the spread of infection among medically-fragile patients.
Below are his remarks to the committee, as prepared for delivery.
Thank you, Chairman Vitale, for allowing me to testify here today.
The heartbreaking tragedy at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, a facility within my district, has shaken us to the core.
I echo the outrage we continue to hear from the families who lost children in this outbreak, as well as the concerns vocalized by the many others who have loved ones who are currently receiving care at a state facility.
They should not have to fear that their own children will become the victims of a similar outbreak. The state and all privately-operated facilities must be held accountable.
One of our most sacred responsibilities as public servants is to protect New Jersey’s most vulnerable residents from harm, especially innocent children.
I believe the members of this committee can agree that serious actions are necessary to guarantee no more families suffer the excruciating pain of losing a child.
The children who died as a result of the outbreak at Wanaque were already at a high risk of infection. They needed more care and more oversight; not less.
My prayers are with all of those who are grieving. But they deserve much more than our thoughts and prayers. Far too many parents are still struggling to understand what went wrong.
It is my hope that during today’s committee, you will provide answers for these families, and ultimately discover tangible solutions that guarantee not a single life is lost again.
The catastrophe at Wanaque was completely preventable.
The reason this outbreak of a dangerous strain of adenovirus was so deadly, was because the children who were affected were already so medically-fragile.
We have learned that part of the problem was the facility’s inability to quickly separate those who were showing symptoms of infection, from those who were not.
We must ensure that every pediatric facility has a plan and the ability to cohort patients to prevent dangerous viral outbreaks from spreading.
I have introduced legislation that would require pediatric hospitals in New Jersey to develop a plan to cohort patients who exhibit signs of potentially contagious infections.
For those who are unaware – 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. 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.
Without my legislation, many medically-fragile children in the care of the state will continue to be at risk.
Respectfully, I request that this committee review my bill as soon as possible. It’s the best way to stop another outbreak.
It is disappointing that caregivers – many who are highly-trained and licensed, were so lax at infection control.
It is of concern that parents were not properly notified when their children became ill. It is troubling that once these children became ill they were not promptly hospitalized.
Were monetary conflicts at issue? Many have so speculated.
There must be better regulatory oversight over these practices.
Thank you for hearing my testimony today, and for taking this matter seriously. This is the least we can do to deliver some sort of justice to those who continue to grieve in the wake of the Wanaque outbreak. I am grateful for your efforts.
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