N.J. hospitals, nursing homes could soon be required to report COVID-19 cases, fatalities among workers - Health Professionals & Allied Employees

N.J. hospitals, nursing homes could soon be required to report COVID-19 cases, fatalities among workers

Taken from NJ.com


December 18, 2020

The coronavirus has infected 419,000 people in New Jersey and claimed the lives of at least 16,200, according to state data. Nurses, doctors and other medical professionals are among the tally, but no one is keeping track of just how many.

On Thursday the state Senate and Assembly Thursday passed legislation that would require hospitals, surgery centers, long-term care facilities, hospice centers and home healthcare agencies to report the number of COVID-19 cases and fatalities among their employees to the state Department of Health.

The bill (S2384) passed the Assembly 79-0 and the Senate 33-0 in the jammed-packed final voting day of the Legislature in 2020.

Health Professionals and Allied Employees, the union that represents 14,000 nurses in New Jersey, called for the legislation after its members expressed frustration with hospitals not turning over the information voluntarily.

“HPAE’s 14,000 members are grateful to our legislators for passing a law mandating that hospitals track and report data regarding coronavirus infection among hospital workers to the Department of Health,” HPAE President Debbie White said after the vote.

“Nine months into this pandemic, we still do not have an accurate accounting of these affected workers,” White said. “Getting precise data on healthcare worker exposure and COVID illness is critical to understanding healthcare worker safety during a pandemic outbreak and essential to developing a plan to improve going forward.”

“We now urge Gov. Phil Murphy to promptly sign it into law,” White added.

Murphy appears to support the measure. When he was asked about the bill at coronavirus briefing earlier this month, he replied, “Yes, 100%. Folks have a right to know what’s going on.”

There have been reports of outbreaks among staff at some New Jersey hospitals, including at Palisades and Ocean medical centers, but public health departments and hospitals have declined to share information about the number of employees affected.

The bill would require hospitals and other health care providers to report cases and death information on bi-monthly basis, either to the Health Department or a nonprofit trade group, which would then transmit it to the state. The health department would be required to compile a report no later than 12 months after the COVID-19 public health emergency is declared over, according to the bill.

The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman William Spearman, D-Gloucester and Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex.