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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: May 8, 2020 05:06 PM
From: Senator Katie J. Muth and Sen. Maria Collett, Sen. Pam Iovino
To: All Senate members
Subject: Comprehensive Guidance and Reporting for Nursing, Long Term Care and Congregate Care Facilities during COVID-19
In the near future, we will be introducing legislation for nursing, long term care (LTC) and congregate care (CC) facilities that will address the following:
  • Create a protocol for residents, as well as families who are eligible to receive notifications about a resident’s health, to review their notification agreement and update it in the case of an infectious disease outbreak;
  • Provide for guidance and prioritization for testing and personal protection equipment (PPE) for residents and staff in facilities with confirmed COVID-19 cases;
  • Mandate aggregate data to be published by facility outlining the number of confirmed positive and presumed positive COVID-19 cases and deaths due to COVID-19 for residents and staff of the facility; and
  • Outline inspection, assessment and auditing guidelines to ensure facilities are following safety and reporting protocol.
Nursing homes, long term care (LTC) and congregate care (CC) facilities are confronting significant challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic progresses. Many legislators are getting reports about facilities in our districts that are facing a high number of COVID-19 cases among populations most vulnerable to the disease and with the highest rates of comorbidities. Staff are being asked to live in a state of uncertainty with a lack of regular testing even when working with confirmed COVID-19 patients. Families sometimes are being left in the dark with a lack of communication about their loved one’s status.

None of us could fully anticipate all our needs when the pandemic came to Pennsylvania. However, now that we have witnessed the devastation of the disease, we have a better understanding of what support and guidance is needed to more effectively navigate through the new realities COVID-19 presents. We need to develop protocols and structures based on these insights and in anticipation of a second surge of cases in the fall.

Therefore, we are introducing legislation that will provide protocols for facilities to have conversations with their residents and contact family members who are eligible to receive notifications about the health of residents. This will enable residents and their families to re-evaluate the notification agreements originally signed when residents moved to the facility and choose which notifications they would like to have during an infectious disease outbreak. This will also give families an opportunity to decide if they want to consider moving their loved ones out of the facility during the outbreak.

Our legislation will also require the Department of Health (DOH) to outline guidance in regard to testing in facilities that have a confirmed positive case. Now that the availability of testing supplies is expanding, we must have mass testing of both residents and employees to be able to isolate and contain the virus to the best of the facility’s ability. This method will effectively and efficiently mitigate the spread of COVID in nursing, LTC and CC facilities and their surrounding communities.

We will also mandate DOH to publish aggregate data by facility, updated weekly, that communicates how many confirmed positive and presumed positive COVID-19 cases there are in a facility and how many confirmed and presumed COVID-19-related deaths have occurred, for both staff and residents.

Finally, our legislation will require monthly inspections by the DOH, as well as random spot assessments, to ensure compliance with guidelines for safety and reporting. The Office of the Auditor General will be utilized to provide regular auditing of the department to ensure public information is being disseminated accurately and in a timely fashion.

Please join us in cosponsoring this life saving piece of legislation.

Introduced as SB1270