May. 28, 2020 / Press Release

Legislature responds to the urgency of help necessary to protect residents living in nursing home facilities,
personal care homes, assisted living residences

HARRISBURG – Taking action today to help protect 123,000 Pennsylvanians living in the state’s nursing home facilities, personal care homes and assisted living residences, the Senior Protection Act, House Bill 2510, authored by Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R-Allegheny) and co-sponsored by Reps. Harry Readshaw (D-Allegheny) and Bill Kortz (D-Allegheny) to help these facilities keep loved ones safe, passed the House and is heading to the governor’s desk for his signature, Turzai said.

“This regional approach will tap into the existing relationships and expertise of our first-class academic and research hospitals to help protect our most vulnerable citizens, our seniors, many with underlying health issues,” Turzai said. “The Senior Protection Act, developed by medical experts, is a data-driven direct response to Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 health crisis. We need the expertise of Pennsylvania’s outstanding academic medical experts, located in every region of the state because these settings are not fully equipped to protect their residents.”

According to the Pennsylvanian Health Care Association and LeadingAge PA, a statewide association representing nonprofit providers of long-term services and supports for older adults, there are more than 123,000 individuals living in 697 nursing facilities, 1,143 personal care homes and 58 assisted living residences throughout Pennsylvania. These facilities employ 143,000 people.

As reported by the Department of Health today, there are 15,158 resident cases of COVID-19 and 2,563 cases among employees, for a total of 17,721 at 600 distinct nursing and personal care facilities in 44 counties. Out of the state’s total 5,373 deaths, 3,501, or 65% have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

To ensure consistency of programs, response and study of clinical and public health outcomes, the legislation would establish a coordinated, collaborative public-private-partnership approach of regional health system collaboratives. These health collaboratives would administer/manage personnel, protocols, testing and expenditures to protect the seniors in these facilities.

Speaker Turzai worked with UPMC experts to develop this plan to protect those most vulnerable to COVID-19. In fact, UPMC experts prepared, at the Speaker’s request, a prototype for southwest Pennsylvania and developed a construct for the entire state, much of which is embodied in his legislation.

“Developed by medical experts, the Senior Protection Act will help provide our state’s seniors and their families the assurance that they are in a healthy and safe environment,” Readshaw said. “As we continually challenge the COVID-19 virus, this theme of control and protect the state’s nursing home facilities, personal care homes and assisted living centers must be encouraged by everyone.”

“Protecting our most vulnerable residents during this pandemic is our top priority,” said Kortz. “UPMC physicians Dr. Nace, Dr. Gladwin, and their team are to be congratulated for drafting an excellent and urgently needed plan to address the COVID-19 outbreak at nursing homes and personal care facilities.”

The legislation will also provide an appropriation of $350 million from federal funds. These funds will be distributed by the Department of Human Services (DHS) in consultation with the Secretary of Health, to these academic health systems.

According to Turzai, the key is to get this funding into the hands of the private sector entities that can best implement and manage protocols, personnel, testing, data collection, quarantining, cohorting and oversight in a prompt, flexible and innovative manner.

DHS would divide the state into regions delineating all the facilities within the parameters of a region. After receiving proposals, the DHS would contract with health collaborative administrators (which must be academic health systems) to operate, manage and administer the program in each region to protect residents in these facilities from COVID-19.

The original legislation was amended to allow for distribution of federal emergency COVID-19 response funding.

The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously and now heads to the governor for signature.