The state Health Department has ordered a nursing home in Somerset County to stop admitting new residents after an inspection last month triggered concerns about the spread of the coronavirus, according to a letter sent to the facility.
The state also directed Somerset Woods Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Franklin Township to hire two full-time employees — an experienced long-term care administrator and an infectious disease professional, according to the Oct. 13 order the health department recently posted on its website.
The facility is one of 188 in the state that is in the midst of an active outbreak of the virus, according to state data. COVID-19 has sickened 85 residents and 25 employees at Somerset Woods, killing 13 residents since the start of the current outbreak in May, according to the state’s COVID-19 data dashboard and Health Department spokeswoman Dawn Thomas.
As of June, 111 residents were living at Somerset Woods, according to state licensing and inspection records. With 85 residents now sick, according to the state, that means the active outbreak has sickened approximately three-quarters of everyone living there. The facility, located on Old New Brunswick Road in the Somerset section of Franklin Township, is licensed for 145 beds.
An active outbreak consists of at least one confirmed case; an outbreak is not over until there has been no new cases for 28 days, according to health department protocols.
Admissions were halted based on the findings of an inspection from Oct. 2-Oct 6, according to the order, which did not include a copy of the inspection report. The health department did not furnish a copy of the report on Monday.
However, the state’s inspection team found significant issues with the facility’s overall management and response to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, according to the order. Suspending admissions is a rare step the state has only taken with eight of nearly 680 long-term licensed facilities since the pandemic began in March, according to a list of penalty letters on the state website.
“In order to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the community and protect vulnerable populations from contracting the virus, the Commissioner of the Department of Health hereby order the curtailment of all admissions to the facility.”
“The facility shall be prohibited from accepting new admissions until further notice. This order is effective immediately upon your notification.” according to the order sent to Administrator Steven Schwimmer, who identified himself as an LNHA, or licensed nursing home administrator. He has been the administrator since February 2018, according to his LinkedIn profile.
Schwimmer did not return a phone call or an email Monday.
Schwimmer posted a message on the facility’s website, dated Oct. 30, stating there were no residents and staff who had tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week.
“Our current COVID census is 0,” Schwimmer’s message said. “We continue to follow our guidelines in isolating any resident that develops symptoms for COVID-19 or tests positive for the virus. We remain vigilant in fighting and isolating the virus to the best of our abilities.”
The state gave an Oct. 21 deadline for hiring a licensed nursing home administrator to serve as an “administrative consultant,” overseeing the development of a corrective action plan, staff training, among other management responsibilities.
The state also required a certified infection control practitioner to have been hired by Oct. 21. Both professionals are expected to make weekly reports to the health department, according to the order.
State inspectors found no deficiencies in infection control when it visited Somerset Woods in June, according to the inspection report.
It is not clear how many residents and employees have been infected and died at Somerset Woods since the pandemic began since the health department stopped listing cumulative case and fatality statistics by facility in July. The dashboard includes data on active outbreaks only, which were 188 as of Monday.
The health department did not respond to a request for the cumulative total of cases and deaths at Somerset Woods.
New Jersey has lost at a minimum 6,853 long-term care residents to the virus, plus an additional 627 probable fatalities that have not been confirmed by a test or autopsy, according to the health department.
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