Toomey, Smucker pressing PA Department of Health on COVID nursing home deaths

March 17, 2021
In The News

Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Congressman Lloyd Smucker (PA-11th) announced Wednesday that they are continuing to press the Pennsylvania Department of Health on its handling of residents in nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Toomey and Smucker say in a release that the department had "significant shortcomings in protecting long-term care residents from COVID-19 during the pandemic."

In a letter to the PA Dept. of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam, Toomey and Smucker wrote:

“The results have been tragic. More than half of Pennsylvanians whose deaths have been attributed to COVID-19 were nursing homes residents. In May of 2020, nearly 70 percent of all fatalities related to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania had occurred in long-term care facilities, compared to just 37 percent nationwide. According to the New York Times, four of the top twelve long-term care facilities with the most COVID-19 deaths nationwide are located in Pennsylvania.

“One facility, the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center (Brighton), had a well-documented history of infection control deficiencies. The facility had received a violation for inadequate infection control procedures less than one year before the pandemic started. In fact, state surveyors from the Department certified that the facility had corrected its deficiencies just four months prior to the deadly outbreak at Brighton.”

Toomey and Smucker's letter goes on to request further information on how the department will strengthen protections for seniors in the future.

Joining Senator Toomey and Congressman Smucker in signing the letter were Pennsylvania Congressmen John Joyce (R-13th), Fred Keller (R-12th), Mike Kelly (R-16th), Dan Meuser (R-9th), Scott Perry (R-10th), Guy Reschenthaler (R-14th), and GT Thompson (R-15th).

You can read the full letter here.

About 12,700 Pennsylvanians have died in nursing homes, and legislators want to know how state decisions influenced that number.

“Very pointed questions were asked to the department administration, and no answers were given for the most part, or questions were avoided,” says Rep. Kerry Benninghoff, PA House Majority Leader (R-Centre/Mifflin).

He is confronting the Wolf Administration, denouncing the handling of long-term care facilities throughout the pandemic. He formally referred an investigation to the House Government Oversight Committee. The committee comprised of five republicans and four democrats will look at how state government decisions impacted outcomes for older adults.