PHCA, LeadingAge PA Call for Reform of State Program to Support Pennsylvania’s Front Line Caregivers
HARRISBURG, PA – Following a public hearing before the state House of Representatives’ Aging and Older Adult Services Committee, Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association (PHCA), and Adam Marles, president and CEO of LeadingAge PA, called for reform of the state’s Regional Response Health Collaboration Program (RRHCP) to better support Pennsylvania’s front line caregivers in nursing homes, assisted living communities and personal care homes. The hearing also included testimony from Pennsylvania state officials and the hospital systems contracted by the Department of Human Services to facilitate the RRHCP.
“We – and long-term care providers at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic – were initially hopeful the RRHCP would offer real support to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19; unfortunately, it has fallen far short from meeting its anticipated goals,” Shamberg said. “We’ve heard consistent concerns from our members regarding the fundamental lack of knowledge of the long-term care sector and an unwillingness or inability to provide testing, staffing and PPE – the very support this program was designed to provide. If it is the intention of the legislature and the Wolf administration to continue this program past 2020, it must be reformed to meet our providers’ needs.”
“We understand the intent and goals of the RRHC program to be admirable and some providers have had positive experiences, but most others have been more burdened than assisted,” Marles said. “As the Administration intends to invest more funding into the program, my main concern is that our providers and Association have a seat at the table to discuss challenges, best practices, and ongoing needs. Reform must be made in critical areas before RRHCPs can effectively help long-term care facilities tackle the virus as they intend to, and the involvement of our providers and representatives is essential to that process. If we’re doing this, we need to do it right – and that calls for foundational changes to the program so we can best support and protect Pennsylvania’s long-term care communities.”
Last month, PHCA and LeadingAge PA sent a joint letter to Governor Tom Wolf and members of the General Assembly urging both the administration and the legislature to reform the state’s RRHCP to better support skilled nursing, assisted living and personal care providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since March, more than 1,000 long-term care facilities statewide have reported at least one case of COVID-19, and nearly 70% of all COVID-related deaths in Pennsylvania have occurred in long-term care. Yet despite continued calls for collaboration, the first-hand experiences of long-term care providers at the epicenter of this pandemic have been largely ignored.
Today’s hearing also featured testimony from Keara Klinepeter, Pennsylvania Department of Health; Dr. Larry Appel and Dr. David Kelly, Pennsylvania Department of Human Services; Dr. David Nace, UPMC; and Dr. Bob Murphy, Lehigh Valley Health Network.