(HARRISBURG, PA) – Yesterday, Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the first indictment in his investigation of nursing homes and their handling of COVID-19. These are the same nursing homes that followed guidance issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Health to accept new admissions and readmissions of people discharged from the hospital who had COVID-19 and keep them housed without the ability to properly quarantine. The nursing homes were doing what they were told to do by Governor Wolf and now former Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, yet our Attorney General is pointing the finger at the nursing homes themselves.
Not only is he turning a blind eye to the root cause of the problem, he has no interest in acknowledging concerns I and others have raised in response to news out of New York that Governor Andrew Cuomo concealed COVID-19 data with respect to nursing home cases.
On February 19th, I sent a letter to the Attorney General calling for him to investigate potential wrongdoing by Governor Wolf, Dr. Levine, and their bureaucratic advisors, and on February 22nd, I sent a follow-up letter in response to one of his staffers emailing me to note that they have been conducting an investigation, which had been announced months prior.
The investigation that staffer was referring to is the one against the nursing homes. In the Attorney General’s press release announcing that investigation – in May – it stated that “his office opened criminal investigations into several Pennsylvania nursing homes and…will investigate any nursing home engaging in criminal neglect of patients and residents.”
It was an investigation by the New York Attorney General that brought to light the suspected wrongdoing by Governor Cuomo, so from my perspective, it was not a farfetched idea to call on our own Attorney General to conduct such an investigation, especially considering the fact that Governor Wolf aligned himself with Governor Cuomo early on in the pandemic, and nursing homes continue to say that their data is not showing in the Department’s COVID reports.
I don’t discredit the Attorney General’s efforts to investigate criminal wrongdoing within our nursing homes. I have heard from constituents over the years frustrated by the treatment loved ones receive at certain facilities, primarily due to a lack of quality staff and oversight. But he also needs to remember which state department has oversight of our nursing homes – the same Department of Health advising the return of COVID patients and the same Department of Health that stopped routine inspections of facilities during COVID. The Attorney General’s first indictment reveals longstanding issues with nursing home operations, but his own statement acknowledges that the misconduct in this particular case was happening pre-COVID:“These crimes put facility residents at risk by only providing a dangerously low amount of nursing staff just before COVID began to surge across the country.”
So, as the Attorney General goes down that path, we are still left to wonder if there have been more than the reported 66,000 COVID cases and 12,000 COVID deaths in our nursing homes. Fortunately, members of the United States Senate are taking Dr. Levine to task on the issue during her confirmation hearings for the position of Assistant Secretary of Health, and I am pursuing other routes to address this issue. Pennsylvanians deserve to know the truth, and the country deserves to know if our former Secretary of Health is trustworthy and serves with the best interests of citizens of our country. Additionally, I am encouraged that Senator Judy Ward, Chair of the Senate Aging and Youth Committee has sent a request to Auditor General DeFoor to fully investigate the Department of Health’s policies in the tragedy of 12,000 nursing home deaths across the Commonwealth.
CONTACT: Bruce McLanahan, (717)-787-8524