Congressman Fred Keller, Congressman Scott Perry demand PA DOH strengthen protections for nursing homes

May 28, 2020
Press Release
Call for greater transparency, accurate information on COVID-19 in Pennsylvania nursing homes

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Fred Keller (R-PA) and Congressman Scott Perry (R-PA) today sent a letter to Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine demanding more transparency and accountability in the Commonwealth’s handling of nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.


As of the most recent reporting, there are over 14,000 cases of COVID-19 among residents at Pennsylvania’s 570 long-term care facilities. In some facilities, including Manor Care in Jersey Shore, Lycoming County, the infection rate is as high as 90 percent of the nursing home population.


This is due in part to the March 18, 2020, Interim Guidance for Nursing Facilities during COVID-19 issued by Pennsylvania Department of Health, which states:


Nursing care facilities must continue to accept new admissions and receive readmissions for current residents who have been discharged from the hospital who are stable to alleviate the increasing burden in the acute care setting. This may include stable patients who have had the COVID-19 virus.


“On top of these concerns, the PA DOH has released inaccurate data about these facilities. Despite your recent statement that these inaccuracies are being rectified, we are alarmed that, in some cases, the data in question included overreporting and outright misinformation about which facilities are experiencing health and safety concerns due to COVID-19,” the letter reads in part.


“For these reasons, we respectfully request that the PA DOH work with the Governor’s Office to do everything in your power to protect our seniors living in these facilities from further harm. Specifically, we urge Pennsylvania to change the requirement that long-term care facilities admit/readmit COVID-19 patients and provide flexibility for facilities to make their own determination about whether to admit/readmit COVID-19 patients on a case-by-case basis, reflecting the unique resources and capabilities at each facility. We also request updated and accurate information about COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities that includes a facility-by-facility count of total infections and deaths across the Commonwealth.”


The letter also notes that, despite Secretary Levine’s contention to the contrary, neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), issued guidance mandating the states require nursing homes to accept COVID-19-positive residents.


“At a press conference on May 21, 2020, your response to questions about this guidance sought to shift blame, claiming the guidance requiring these admissions and readmissions has come from the federal government, specifically the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS),” the Congressmen write. “We are unaware of any existing federal guidance requiring the admission or readmission of COVID-19-positive individuals to nursing facilities. We are naturally confused about where the state is getting its information, why the rationale for these policies continued to change over time, and why this problem seems to be unique to Pennsylvania.”


You can read the entire letter HERE.