June 25, 2020
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Pennsylvania Health Care Association Cites Ongoing Need for Collaboration, Prioritization of Long-Term Care in Senate Testimony

Shamberg: “We can do better. We have the opportunity to do better. Our healthcare heroes – and our senior citizens – deserve better.”

HARRISBURG, PA – Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA), testified today before a public hearing of the Pennsylvania Senate Aging and Youth Committee citing the ongoing need for collaboration and support from state officials as Pennsylvania’s nursing homes, assisted living communities and personal care homes continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and take steps to prepare for a potential resurgence in the fall. Today’s public hearing on long-term care and COVID-19 featured Shamberg delivering testimony alongside other long-term care and public health leaders.

“It’s no secret that Pennsylvania’s long-term care communities are at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet four months into the response and as fall preparedness efforts begin, long-term care providers, continue to be left out of these critical discussions,” said Shamberg. “If we’ve learned anything over the last several months, it’s that long-term care must have a seat at the table and be given priority in Pennsylvania. These healthcare heroes deserve to be heard, not ignored, especially when they know first-hand what comes with standing on the front lines of a pandemic.”

Shamberg’s testimony reiterated many of the points outlined in PHCA’s Long-Term Care Plan for Pennsylvania and focused more specifically on the ongoing challenges that exist for long-term care providers.

“Two months ago, we were told one-time universal testing was unnecessary. A month later, we were told a ‘radical’ universal testing plan would be implemented statewide but it wasn’t required. It wasn’t even a recommendation – it was only a strategy. A little more than two weeks ago, providers were given a mandate: test everyone once by July 24,” Shamberg said. “Absent any willingness by the Department of Health to collaborate or understand challenges that exist, providers are left with major obstacles. Medical directors are hesitant to order testing for asymptomatic residents, staff because of liability concerns. And insurance providers are unwilling to cover the cost of asymptomatic staff – even with a state mandate – because the test is not considered medically necessary. These are questions we need answers to immediately.”

During the hearing, Shamberg responded to questions about a recent order signed by Department of Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine in which the department threatened fines or prison time for nursing home staff failing to report to the Survey123 tool, the Department’s latest survey reporting database for long-term care providers.

“At some point on Thursday evening, the Department of Health posted a new order to its Message Board without any sort of notification or alert for nursing home administrators,” Shamberg said. “The nursing home administrators we’ve spoken with have said they’ve heard nothing from the Department of Health up to this point, in terms of failure to report, unintentional misreporting or even acknowledgment that their daily reports or submissions to the Survey 123 have been received.”

“For months, long-term care providers have been asking the Department of Health for collaboration – for the opportunity to work with state officials to address the challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the Department of Health is threatening providers with 30 days in prison. It’s simply unacceptable,” Shamberg said.

In addition, Denise Curry, vice president and general manager of HCR ManorCare, the senior care division of ProMedica, and a member of the PHCA Board of Directors, also offered testimony during an informational meeting on long-term care and COVID-19 hosted by the Pennsylvania House Aging Committee.

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