N.J. dispatches inspection team to pediatric center after workers allege delays in hospital care

State Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal sent a team of inspectors to the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation after employees claimed the facility delayed transferring critically ill children who had been infected in a viral outbreak to the hospital, the department confirmed. 

Two employees told NJ Advance Media in a report published Thursday that senior administrators delayed sending kids to the hospital — even as many started dying. Ten children have died and 19 others have tested positive for the adenovirus, a hospital-acquired infection.

Our 4-year-old who died in viral outbreak needed emergency care

Speaking on the condition of anonymity over fears of losing their jobs, the employees said managers delayed moving patients to keep as many of the 92 beds in the pediatric unit full and keep Medicaid funds flowing. 

“You would be surprised how slow they were to send these kids out, even after the deaths, even after the media knew. They are still delaying,” according to one employee.

“A surprise inspection team of several investigators are currently on-site investigating multiple complaints,” Health Department spokeswoman Dawn Thomas said. “While we cannot reveal those complaints in the context of ongoing investigations, reports from the media can be classified as complaints.”

The Wanaque Center and other pediatric nursing facilities receive $519.46 from Medicaid per patient per day, but the money stops as soon as the patient leaves, according to the state Department of Human Services.

A spokesman for the Wanaque Center’s for-profit owner, Continuum Healthcare, could not immediately be reached for comment. 

This is the second surprise inspection in about two weeks. The health department sent a team two weeks after Wanaque informed the state about the outbreak and the deaths of two children. The inspection found deficiencies in handwashing and infection control.

Editor’s note: Do you have a family member on the pediatric unit at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, or a child who has been affected by the viral outbreak there? NJ.com would like to hear from you. You may reach us at (732) 902-4559, or write to Susan Livio at slivio@njadvancemedia.com, Spencer Kent at skent@njadvancemedia.com, or Ted Sherman at tsherman@njadvancemedia.com.

Susan K. Livio may be reached at slivio@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook. 

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