NJ leaders hold hearing on adenovirus outbreak at Wanaque facility

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TRENTON -

New Jersey leaders held a hearing to take a closer look into recent viral outbreaks at some of New Jersey’s health care facilities.

Monday’s state Senate hearing focused on the adenovirus outbreak at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell. The outbreak is responsible for the deaths of 11 young people and sickened many more.

Parents of the children affected by the virus attended the meeting as their attorney testified for them in front of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

“The parents that I represent do not believe that the Wanaque Center acted in the best interests of their children,” said attorney Paul da Costa. “On the contrary, they think that their children's health and wellbeing was unnecessarily put at risk.”

RELATED: Committee to hold hearing on deadly viral outbreaks at health care 
RELATED: Department of Health: Separation of Wanaque Center adenovirus patients completed

The attorney said that the families felt that they were not contacted in a timely and appropriate manner concerning the situation at the facility. 

State leaders said that the hearing was to be considered a “fact-finding mission” that could lead to legislation and regulatory changes. The panel said that they would look to answer questions including how the outbreak happened, how it became so widespread and what needs to be done to prevent it from happening again.

“It is impossible to keep visitors from seeing loved ones, visitors who may inadvertently introduce illness,” said New Jersey Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal. “We’ll likely never know how it was introduced to the nursing home.”

The owners and operators of the Wanaque Center did not testify Monday. They were invited to speak, but declined, citing patient privacy and other related restrictions. Some members of the panel suggested that they should be subpoenaed to answer questions.

All of the children who died from the adenovirus already had other underlying health issues.

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