TRENTON — Lawmakers voted for another five bills affecting long-term care facilities Thursday, tackling what’s become a recurring theme as the state hopes the second wave of COVID-19 infections now underway doesn’t ravage nursing homes like the first.

Just one of the five bills reached Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk by virtue of Thursday voting sessions: A4282/4150/S2566, which requires long-term care facilities and hospitals to maintain a minimum supply of personal protective equipment.

Four other bills were also approved by the Assembly but need further consideration in the Senate:

  • A4478 Establishes additional requirements for Department of Health to assess sanctions and impose penalties on nursing homes; revises reporting requirements for nursing homes.
  • A4480 Requires Department of Human Services to review various aspects of Medicaid managed care program, to determine whether MCOs should suspend or terminate a contract with a nursing home that has a history of multiple licensure violations, or at least one violation that resulted in severe adverse health consequences for facility residents or staff.
  • A4484 Requires State Long-Term Care Ombudsman to establish long-term care advocacy and educational training program.
  • A4485 Dedicates personal protective equipment to long-term care facilities, home health agencies, hospice care providers, health care service firms, PACE programs, and certain community-based providers during public health emergency.

Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, R-Bergen, noted that it has been two years since an adenovirus outbreak at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, in her legislative district, in which 11 medically vulnerable children died.

“As a result, we had discussed implementing a lot of different protocols and procedures to ensure that we would never have a subsequent outbreak with the type of deaths we saw in Wanaque,” Schepisi said. “Unfortunately, that never came to fruition the way that it was supposed to, so we stand here today with a lot of people in the state who have lost loved ones.”

Schepisi said more work needs to be done on the issue and complained that the Legislature hasn’t received sufficient testimony from the state Department of Health “about what the breakdown was.”

“Back in March, there were certain orders that did take place that we were not apprised of that resulted in my personal belief in a lot of unnecessary deaths,” Schepisi said.

More than 7,200 of the 14,500 lab-confirmed COVID-related deaths in New Jersey have been residents and staff associated with long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and other outbreaks in health care facilities, congregate living and community settings, according to the state’s COVID dashboard.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app

In the last nine days, the number of COVID cases among long-term care residents increased by 132, amounting to 1% of the 12,690 total cases in the state in that time. In addition, the number of cases among staff has risen by 169.

There have been 30 new outbreaks in long-term care facilities in the last nine days. As of Thursday, there were 172 active outbreaks.

The number of lab-confirmed deaths of long-term care residents has risen by 30 in the last nine days, out of 102 total COVID deaths announced in that span.

Another long-term care related bill wasn’t taken up Thursday despite having been listed for a vote: A4477, which revises licensure, operational and reporting requirements for nursing homes.

Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com.