March 13, 2020
Contact: Shayna Varner, 717-221-1800
Cell: 304-280-0457

Long-Term Care Advocates Urge Governor Wolf to Provide Proactive Regulatory and Staffing Relief for Providers as Part of COVID-19 Response

HARRISBURG, PA – Earlier today, the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA) and LeadingAge PA sent a joint letter to Governor Tom Wolf urging him to provide proactive regulatory and staffing relief for long-term care providers as they navigate the emerging impacts of COVID-19 and continue efforts to protect Pennsylvania’s most at-risk and vulnerable population: those in long-term care facilities.

The joint letter comes after several days of communication with the groups’ counterparts in other states, including Washington, as well as their respective national affiliates and state officials.

Based on those strong recommendations and learned best practices, as well as the evolving response to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, PHCA and LeadingAge PA have requested that Governor Wolf sign an executive order providing for the following as it relates to staffing:

  • Granting temporary relief or waivers from the staffing requirements issued by the Department of Health for Long Term Care Facilities and Department of Human Services for Personal Care Home/Assisted Living Residences if facilities are not able to meet minimums but are still providing adequate quality of care to residents;
  • Allowing for staffing flexibility for ancillary or administrative staff to perform certain resident-specific activities after the proper, abbreviated training;
  • Allowing for flexibility from the Department of Human Services day care regulation requirements so long-term care providers with space can allow workers to bring their children to these settings (as first suggested by the Department of Health and Hospital and Healthsystem of Pennsylvania);
  • Immediately granting temporary Pennsylvania licensure to physicians, nurses and nursing assistants licensed in other states to help providers here and now.

Additionally, the associations requested Governor Wolf work with federal partners at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow graduate and licensed nurses to work in the role of nurse aides, if necessary, during this critical time.

Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Association, and Adam Marles, president and CEO of LeadingAgePA, released this statement:

“The Pennsylvania Health Care Association and LeadingAge PA have been in contact with members – nursing homes, personal care homes and assisted living communities providing care for the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable older residents – regarding preventions for COVID-19.

“We have also been in regular communication with the Department of Health (DOH) and have repeatedly requested guidance as it relates to emergency staffing. With schools and daycare closures, illness and call-offs, long-term care providers will almost certainly struggle to meet staffing requirements and provide care.

“We have yet to receive any guidance from the Department of Health.

“Given what has happened in Life Care Center, a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, in which residents have died, staff have been exposed to COVID-19 and families are actively seeking answers, our providers in Pennsylvania have been working to prepare for the worst. Resident and staff safety are top priorities for our membership. If past viruses and flu seasons are any indication, the COVID-19 outbreak will get worse before it gets better. We must work together to mitigate the spread of this virus now and protect those most at risk.

“We have now expressed our concern to the Governor’s Office.

“Long-term care providers cannot wait any longer. We cannot allow providers to operate without regulatory cooperation, especially considering the unique challenges of this virus.

“We cannot continue to put our most vulnerable population and our workforce at risk.

“We urgently need cooperation from our state government.”

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