Virus Sickens and Claims Patient’s Lives, Lawsuit Filed
Paula M. Costigan is suing the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in New Jersey where an adenovirus outbreak has killed ten pediatric patients since September 26 of this year and sickened thirty others after her child was left nearly dead. Costigan said her the rehab facility failed to follow safety protocols and didn’t inform family or the patient about the outbreak.
The lawsuit, filed in Superior Court in Passaic County, may be the first of many civil complaints against the rehab center, which has stopped taking new residents until the outbreak dissipates. The lawsuit also suggests that the state Department of Health, which is not named as a defendant, publicly downplayed the seriousness of its inspection findings in citing only minor hand washing issues. There have been annual safety violations at the facility, according to the filing.
Costigan said her son developed a high fever and complications on October 9. He had to be admitted to the hospital in critical condition. The first adenovirus case was reported on September 26, but officials did not notify the family about the outbreak until October 22. On October 21, a state inspection cited the rehab staff only for poor hand washing.
The lawsuit says a May 2015 state inspection found that the facility failed to maintain safe and clean environment or have an infection prevention and control program. Inspectors found corroded faucets, suspicious floor stains, black substances and dirt in restrooms, and debris in the facilities HVAC system. The following year, in March 2016, an inspection found that nurses practiced poor hand hygiene. Then, in May 2017, an inspection found nurses used syringes in an unsanitary manner and that they were not properly disinfecting surfaces.
An inspection in August 2018 this year found a strong, unpleasant odor in a patient sleeping area linked to old carpet and mildew. The lawsuit says the carpeting is fifteen years old and “incapable of sustaining a routing cleaning.”
The Voorhees Pediatric Facility in Camden County also recently reported its sixth case of adenovirus. State Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal required the facility to stop admitting new patients for the time being. The outbreaks have prompted health officials to schedule special visits to pediatric facilities and hospitals.
“The Camden County Health Department has inspected the Voorhees Pediatric Facility twice since being notified to ensure that all protocols prescribed by the state are being followed,” Freeholder Carmen Rodriguez said.
The Voorhees center has the capacity to safely and swiftly separate sick, exposed and well individuals into separate areas,” the county said. “They implemented infection control measures such as cleaning and disinfecting environmental surfaces and reinforcing appropriate handwashing techniques. The facility is also providing daily updates to public health officials regarding illnesses in the facility.”
Adenovirus is especially dangerous for a patient with a compromised immune system, such as those who are sickly and patients in rehab facilities. It can take two weeks for symptoms to develop after exposure to the virus. These include the common cold, a sore throat, bronchitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, pink eye, fever, bladder inflammation, inflammation of the stomach and intestines, and neurological disease.