What the New Infectious Disease Directives Mean for Your NJ Long-Term Care Facility

October 14, 2020
Infectious Disease News

It’s no secret long-term care facilities have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in a large number of lives lost. Long-term care facilities provide rehabilitative, restorative, and ongoing skilled nursing to patients or residents in need of assistance of daily living. These are some of the most vulnerable people in our population, and therefore, they require added protection from the effects of COVID-19 or any other emerging infectious diseases.

Thankfully, through guidance from Department of Health, New Jersey has been able to limit the amount of infections and deaths in most  healthcare settings as the pandemic has moved along. And NEW state mandates , as outlined by nj.gov, will continue the progress as long-term care facilities move toward fully reopening. The next phase of mandates are extensive, but necessary, and procuring the assistance of an infectious disease specialist, like ID Care, may not only be critical for your reopening process, but in some cases, mandatory.

The Next Step in Reopening Nursing Homes, Assisted Living Facilities, Rehab Facilities, and More

In March, when COVID-19 first hit New Jersey, the DOH stopped visitations at long-term care facilities, essentially creating a lockdown. Outdoor visits have been allowed by appointment since the end of June, and in mid-July the DOH permitted parents, one family member, legal guardians and support persons of pediatric, developmentally disabled and intellectually disabled residents of long-term care facilities to arrange for by-appointment indoor visits with their loved ones.

The state is currently at a low baseline of COVID-19, and because of this, the DOH has moved into the next phase of reopening for long-term care facilities. If you own or operate a nursing home, rehabilitation facility, inpatient behavioral health facility, or long-term chronic care hospital—here’s what you need to know.

New State Mandates

The DOH has implemented a new directive for a phased reopening of long-term care facilities with required preparations that must be accounted for in the event of a surge of COVID -19. Once long-term care facilities meet these requirements, they will advance in phases, and in each phase, will be able to restore services for residents and ultimately allow for indoor visitation and resumption of normal activities. Under the DOH directive, when a facility is permitted to enter a reopening phase depends on compliance with the following benchmarks:

  • Facilities must not have an active outbreak. An outbreak is considered concluded when a facility has 28 days – two incubation periods with no new positive staff or residents – and, if a CMS-certified facility, a DOH survey inspection.
  • They must be fully staffed and have a plan for additional staffing in case of an outbreak or emergency.
  • Staff testing must continue to be conducted weekly.
  • It is essential that they have enough PPE for present use in addition to a stockpile for emergencies.
  • They must have an updated outbreak plan with lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan must also include a communications strategy that outlines regular communication with residents and families about cases and outbreaks or any other emergency. The plan must also include methods for virtual communication in the event of visitation restrictions. The plan must be posted on their website.
  • Facilities must contract with an infection control service within two months or hire a full-time employee in the infection control role if they have more than 100 beds or hemodialysis.
  • Facilities with ventilator beds are required to hire an infection control employee per current statute.
  • Every facility will be required to put in place within nine months a respiratory protection program that complies with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards including medical screenings and fit testing of employees using respirators (N95 Masks).

How ID Care Can Help

While this list of requirements might seem overwhelming, an established infectious disease partner, like ID Care, can ensure your long-term care facility passes every phase of the re-opening process.

Through a close relationship with the DOH, we can ensure your facility meets the standards of a survey inspection. In addition, ID Care has helped treat over 25% of the hospitalized COVID-19 cases in New Jersey, giving your facility the ability to update and implement a proven outbreak plan informed by the lessons we learned from the frontlines of the pandemic. 

For long-term care facilities with more than 100 beds or hemodialysis, or facilities with ventilator beds, the state is mandating a contractual agreement with experts in limiting infectious diseases. At ID Care, this is one of our core competencies and we’re well positioned to help your facility meet the requirements under the Executive Order.

As the largest, private, independent infectious disease practice on the East Coast, and the second largest in the United States, ID Care can help your long-term care facility meet, and exceed, the infectious disease standards set forth by the state. Every day, ID Care partners with some of the most well-respected healthcare organizations across New Jersey  to create infectious disease protocols and services designed to create the safest outcomes for both patients and staff. We oversee the treatment of over 250,000 patients a year in over 130 care facilities – including long-term facilities, both large and small – to ensure that more patients and communities have access to the highest level of infectious disease care. As New Jersey’s largest network of board-certified infectious disease physicians, we can be a valuable partner for your long-term facility, ready to share the resources, time, and knowledge you need to meet the new state mandates for re-opening and beyond.

Give us a call at 908-281-0221 to schedule a consultation with an ID Care expert or visit idcare.com to learn more.