01/24/12 — Law changes reporting procedures

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Law changes reporting procedures

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 24, 2012 1:46 PM

A new state law that went into effect this month to protect adult care home residents will hopefully also ensure improved reporting to local health departments, officials say.

Ever since a hepatitis B outbreak claimed six lives at GlenCare assisted living facility in Mount Olive in 2010, state officials have debated the need for better safeguards through better-defined practices and education of staff.

James Roosen, former health director with the Wayne County Health Department for the past eight years, retired in November, but not before he strongly advocated for better reporting to public health agencies, especially among adult care homes.

While he cited other cases of communicable diseases, the outbreak at GlenCare had evoked a particular concern.

"The first thing I did after I got knowledge about this is, I went to the state and said we need to pass a law," he said in October, noting at the time it had been met with resistance. "Their answer was, we have tried this before and it didn't work. I said, 'We haven't had six deaths before.'"

Roosen said then that he was pleased to learn there had since been movement, in the form of House Bill 474, scheduled to go into effect this month. The new law, which primarily focuses on increasing education, training and evaluation requirements for adult care home aides and infection control requirements, also contains guidelines for reporting suspected communicable disease outbreaks to local health departments.

Josa Raynor-Vaughn, communicable diseases program manager with the Wayne County Health Department, said she is optimistic about the law's potential to make a difference.

"I'm hoping that people will report if they get ill, and I would hope that the providers will report better," she said this morning. "So far, we have had pretty good responses, like when we had the Hepatitis A (possible exposure to Hepatitis A through a former employee at Fruity Yogurt in Goldsboro in December)."

She said the hospital has done a good job of reporting incidents, and agreed that sometimes it takes an extreme situation to create awareness and actions within the community.

"I think people are becoming better-informed and looking out for illnesses," she said. "They're taking extra steps to make sure, by going to the doctor, that it's not something detrimental to their health. I think it's probably going better."