What to Know
- A federal report blames an NJ long-term care facility's leadership for worsening a viral outbreak that killed 11 children last year
- The report says the pediatric medical director of the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation didn't know how many kids were infected
- No new cases have been reported at the center since Nov. 12 but the state still bars new admissions to its pediatric ventilator unit
A federal report says a viral outbreak that killed 11 children at a New Jersey long-term care facility was made worse because those in charge didn't plan for such an outbreak and didn't react fast enough.
The pediatric medical director of the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation didn't know how many children were infected or what his job entailed at the time of the outbreak last fall, according to The Record's review of the 114-page federal report, which was written in mid-November.
"I knew we had a problem after the fourth death," that doctor told investigators, according to The Record's citation of the report. But another seven children would die over the next five weeks before the outbreak was contained.
Center Administrator Rowena Bautista says the report is "riddled with factual inaccuracies and blatant misstatements." She says they have appealed the report's findings and will "vigorously dispute the allegations."
No new cases of the virus have been reported at the center since Nov. 12. But the state still bars new admissions to the center's pediatric ventilator unit.
In December, New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said nearly two dozen children at the Wanaque center showed symptoms of the viral infection and two had died by the time his department was notified.
At a hearing that month, Elnahal told a legislative committee that he had formed new internal policy requiring him and his principal deputy to be notified of any outbreaks where pediatric deaths have occurred.
"Leadership at the highest levels in the department need to be made aware of severe facility outbreaks immediately, in case deviations from protocol are warranted," Elnahal said.
Elnahal also told the legislative oversight committee it's possible "we may never know" how the adenovirus was introduced at the Wanaque center. The particular strain found at Wanaque can cause serious illness in healthy people, he said.