PA Department of Health Ordered Nursing Homes to Take COVID-19 Positive Residents

May 4, 2020

Governor Wolf likes to say that “science” is dictating his policies. If that is the case, we’d be curious to know what science suggested that it was a good idea to force nursing homes to accept residents who have tested positive for COVID-19. If there is one thing that ALL experts have agreed on, it is older adults, and those with preexisting health conditions are at a higher risk of having severe illness as the result of COVID-19. 

Knowing that nursing home residents are nearly all over the age of 65, and have preexisting health conditions, you might think that keeping residents who had tested positive for COVID-19 out of those facilities would be the first thing that the Department of Health would urge. You might think that, but you would be wrong.

Over the weekend, a lengthy article was published that detailed how the policies of Pennsylvania, among others, required nursing homes to accept residents who had tested positive for COVID-19. Here are a few excerpts:

“On March 29, as Pennsylvania, New York and other states began ordering nursing homes to admit medically stable residents infected with the coronavirus, national trade groups warned it could unnecessarily cost more lives.

“The health directives put “frail and older adults who reside in nursing homes at risk” and would “result in more people going to the hospital and more deaths,” the American Health Care Association and affiliates said at the time.

“A month later, it appears government officials should have heeded the dire call to pursue different pandemic emergency plans…In Pennsylvania, about 65% of coronavirus deaths were nursing-home residents, and in counties in the hardest hit southeastern part of the state, long-term care residents account for as much as 80% of county deaths… Pennsylvania’s Department of Health has not updated its guidance regarding nursing home admission.” (Emphasis added)

Governor Wolf and the Department of Health have taken a heavy-handed and inconsistent approach in closing “non-life sustaining” businesses. However, when it came to protecting a truly at-risk population, they completely dropped the ball. It has been widely reported that nursing homes were unable to obtain adequate testing equipment and insufficient personal protective equipment for their staff (PPE). 

If you have the time to read the entire article, it is well worth it. We will be keeping our eyes on the Department of Health and any developments related to this story and will be sure to keep you informed.