Sanitary Deficiencies at New Jersey Nursing Home Resulted in Deaths of 11 Children from Adenovirus


Nursing home negligence is not limited to abuse and neglect of the elderly. Last fall, 11 children died and many others fell ill from an outbreak of adenovirus at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell.

The deaths occurred at the facility between October 24 and November 16. The Wanaque Center, a privately-owned for-profit business, has a long-term care center that specializes in caring for those who are medically fragile.

Adenovirus is a fairly common virus that can cause mild respiratory illness in otherwise healthy people. Symptoms include fever, cough, diarrhea, pinkeye and sore throat. However, for those with weak immune systems – especially children – the infections can be much worse and can be fatal.

Facility Had Been Cited for Deficiencies in Recent Years

New Jersey state inspection reports show that the facility had been cited for deficiencies that could lead to the spread of infection. Some of those 14 deficiencies cited in reports between 2015 and 2017 included failure to handle medical equipment in a sanitary manner and failure to properly supervise those in their care.

Specific examples include:

  • No nurse notification when a debilitated patient broke a leg in a fall or when a patient struggled to clear his lungs.

  • Strong odor of mold in sleeping area.

  • Improper (unsanitary) handling of medication.

  • Tubing exposed to germs.

Interestingly enough, the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare profile for the Wanaque Center rates it as above average, while at the same time assessing its health inspection rating as below average.

A union spokesperson voiced concerns that the center has experienced worsening staffing levels, cutbacks to job standards and lack of adequate supplies since new for-profit ownership took over in 2014.

Wanaque Center Fined $600,000 by Federal Government

As a result of the facility deaths and illnesses, the federal government found the Center negligent and imposed a fine of $600,000.

The findings from inspections subsequent to the adenovirus outbreak found lapses in infection control and hand-washing, lack of involvement by management, poor oversight by administration and substandard care.

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