A New Jersey nursing home caring for particularly sick and vulnerable children was hit with at least 13 lawsuits, including five wrongful death claims, for putting residents at risk during a deadly outbreak of adenovirus in 2018.
Thirty-six children in the 92-bed pediatric unit at Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell became infected with adenovirus. Eleven of the children died. Adenovirus is a group of viruses that infect the lining of the eyes, airways and lungs, intestine, urinary tract, and nervous system. The virus is more common in children than adults.
The lawsuits name the facility’s owner during the outbreak, Continuum Healthcare, principals Eugene Ehrenfeld and Daniel Bruckstein, as well as numerous staff members.
Most of the lawsuits claim that residents were put at risk because the facility was ill prepared for the outbreak despite caring for chronically ill patients, many of whom have compromised immune systems.
Months before patients became infected, state inspectors found the nursing home failed to maintain a safe and clean environment or to have a proper infection prevention and control plan. Inspectors witnessed staff failing to follow hand-washing protocol and using medication syringes in an unsanitary manner. The facility smelled of mildew and the carpet, which was more than 15 years old, was discolored and stained.
One of the lawsuits was filed by Modeline Auguste and Ocroimy Dolcin, on behalf of their daughter, Dorcase, who died at the age of 4 after contracting the adenovirus while a resident at the Wanaque Center. Dorcase developed a high fever and began having difficulty breathing on Sept. 29, 2018. When symptoms persisted for a few days, she was transferred to the hospital in critical condition. She died Oct. 8, 2018.
The lawsuits also claim that the nursing home committed fraud when it billed Medicaid and private insurance companies for care when the facility didn’t meet acceptable care standards.
The Wanaque Center was fined $600,000 for violations to state and federal standards that put residents and staff at risk. The outbreak also prompted New Jersey lawmakers to pass a law requiring that long-term care facilities develop an outbreak response plan. Facilities like the Wanaque Center that house particularly vulnerable residents are required to submit a more detailed plan to the Department of Health.
Alyssa Baskam, who works in Beasley Allen’s Atlanta office, represents individuals who have been injured or the families of those who have died as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, or other inpatient facility abuse or neglect. She is staying informed about how COVID-19 is impacting nursing homes nationwide. It is a most challenging and unusual situation for patients and caregivers, with most facilities locked down and visitors prohibited.