(HARRSIBURG) – One year after the Wolf Administration ordered the state’s long-term care community to accept COVID-19 positive patients, a group of Senators today highlighted the ongoing lack of accountability and cooperation from Governor Wolf while calling on the Governor to fully engage with the state’s long-term care community.
PA Senator Judy Ward (R-30), chair of the Senate’s Aging and Youth Committee and Senator Yudichak (I-14), committee vice chair were joined by Senator Mike Regan’s constituent Brad Swidler of Camp Hill, Pa, who blames the Wolf Administration’s policies for his father’s death from COVID-19. The Senators were also joined by Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. The news conference can be viewed here.
The Senators highlighted:
- the Wolf Administration’s orders impacting long-term care facilities;
- the lack of availability for widespread testing for facility employees;
- the shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at long-term care facilities despite a state stockpile; and
- the initial exclusion of the long-term care community from vaccine rollout planning.
While state Auditor General Tim DeFoor has indicated his interest in reviewing what role state government played in protecting long-term care residents at these facilities, the Senators called on the Governor to stop acting unilaterally and engage with the long-term care community.
Senator Judy Ward
“We must continue to shine the spotlight on Governor Wolf’s handling of the long-term care facilities. We do not want to forget the many lives that have been lost. These families deserve answers. The Wolf Administration’s decisions early on showed protecting the state’s most vulnerable population was not a priority. Governor Wolf must change his unilateral approach and work with the long-term care community to develop policies that will safeguard this community moving forward.”
“Over the last year, there have been many questions and very few answers from the Wolf Administration about the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in long-term care facilities. We want to move forward – and in order to do so, Governor Wolf and his Administration need to start working collaboratively with the General Assembly and the long-term care industry. Our nursing home residents, their families and the staff deserve answers and they deserve to know that as we move forward, the most vulnerable citizens in this terrible pandemic will be our top priority and they will never be overlooked.”
“I’ve called on the Attorney General, to conduct an investigation which would entail gathering evidence to determine wrongdoing by Governor Wolf and Dr. Levine. One of the first facts I stated was that New York’s Attorney General released a report following an investigation, which is how Governor Cuomo’s suspected data coverup was brought to light. Therefore, from my perspective, it is not a farfetched idea to call on Pennsylvania’s Attorney General to do the same. I am asking for Pennsylvania’s leaders – those who made unilateral decisions throughout the pandemic – to be held accountable for actions and decisions that resulted in the deaths of more than 12,000 nursing home residents.”
“I am the ambassador for my dad – Norman Malcom Swidler – in order to tell his story because he is not able to any longer. I am here to speak today for all those who have lost a loved one in a long-term care facility in Pennsylvania. In 2021, the Swidlers and all of the other families who lost loved ones in a nursing home during the COVID-19 pandemic deserve answers. I am telling my dad’s story because every resident and family member who has lost of loved one in a personal care home is looking for answers. Hopefully, we can get those from the Wolf Administration and the Department of Health as to why this happened.
Zach Shamberg, president and CEO, Pennsylvania Health Care Association
“For more than a year, long-term care providers, workers and residents have remained at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. There is no question this pandemic was unprecedented, but the need for collaboration between stakeholders and state government is not new. The voices of long-term care — our healthcare heroes on the frontlines, as well as our most vulnerable senior citizens — must be heard. Their shared challenges, experiences and solutions will better prepare us in the months and years ahead.”
Governor Wolf through the state Department of Health issued a March 18, 2020, order that said long-term care facilities “must” accept COVID-19 positive patients. While the Administration puts to federal guidance for their policy, the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) policy says “can” accept.
After repeated calls for accountability, Senators Ward and Yudichak called on Auditor General Tim DeFoor to review of Governor Wolf’s handling of the nursing homes during the pandemic. The Auditor General has indicated his interest in auditing 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.
In April 2020, the Wolf Administration ordered healthcare and long-term care facilities to disclose their inventory of ventilators and PPE so the state could commandeer supplies to distribute to those in most need. In September, the Governor announced the state had a stockpile of PPE. Meanwhile, the long-term care community has experienced an ongoing shortage of PPE throughout the pandemic and received little to no assistance from the Wolf Administration to address the issue.