(HARRISBURG) – As questions continue to mount over the Wolf Administration’s rules for managing COVID-19 at long-term care facilities, state Senators Judy Ward (R-30) and John Yudichak (I-14) called on PA Auditor General Timothy DeFoor to review the policies from Department of Health (DOH) and Department of Human Services (DHS) and the impact on these elder care facilities.
“We are truly concerned that the guidance and the lack of state resources deployed by the DOH and DHS have played a role in increasing the tragic spread of COVID-19 infections in Pennsylvania’s long-term care living facilities, such as nursing homes, personal care homes, and assisted living communities,” the Senators said.
In a letter to DeFoor, the Senators said: “The DOH and DHS have a duty and responsibility to protect our most vulnerable citizens – older adults – from the COVID-19 pandemic. The high death toll in our long-term care living facilities is alarming and reflects a disastrous policy resulting in nearly 70 percent of all deaths in this Commonwealth occurring in elder care facilities early on, a higher proportion than in most other states.”
Senator Ward, chair of the Senate Committee on Aging and Youth and Senator Yudichak, vice chair of the committee, sent the letter calling for the intervention of the Auditor General because of interest expressed by other Senate Republican colleagues including Senator Mike Regan (R-31) and Senator Bob Mensch (R-24) and concerned families who have loved ones in long-term care facilities.
In the letter, the Senators cited the Wolf Administration failure to make personal protective equipment and widespread testing available in these facilities as well as the policy that required nursing facilities to continue to accept new admissions and receive admissions for current residents who have been discharged from the hospital who are stable. The letter also questioned the reliability of data on COVID-19 cases in deaths when at times the number of deaths at a facility exceeded the number of residents.
The Senators said they believe it is appropriate for the Auditor General to consider what role state government played in protecting long-term care residents at these facilities, which were operating under emergency direction and guidance from these departments during this pandemic.
“We urge you to review the actions of the DOH and DHS and their policies on these elder care facilities,” the letter said. “In addition, we ask you to make any recommendations for how these state agencies can improve their current operations and help prevent the loss of so many older Pennsylvanians lives in the future.”
Contact: Cheryl Shriner