Growing demands for more protection in nursing homes due to COVID-19

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) COVID-19’s impact on nursing homes is well documented. This new group says its mission is to provide support and just possibly, save lives.

“When you look at the data, over 66 percent of deaths related to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania have come in our nursing homes, have been our nursing home residents,” said Senator John Yudichak, (I) 14th district.

Yudichak is spearheading an effort to bring those numbers down. He helped create a nonprofit organization called Northeastern Pennsylvania Nursing Home S.O.S. (Supply—Operate—Save)

It received $250,000 in grants from the Earth Conservancy and the All-One Foundation to help provide additional resources to those facilities.

“So we are going to have a half-million dollars we are going to drive into this program to get resources to get personal protection equipment to staff in our nursing homes and get equipment to our nursing home residents,” said Yudichak.

He says one of the reasons for the new organization is what he calls a lack of an action plan from Harrisburg to provide adequate resources to nursing homes.

“The most vulnerable citizens in this pandemic are nursing homes and nursing home residents and we’ve seen no executive order from the governor’s office. Sadly, not much information is getting to family members or getting to legislators,” said Yudichak.

Two of the state’s largest organizations representing nursing homes across the commonwealth, LeadingAge PA and the Pennsylvania Healthcare Association, agree. They made these comments at a news conference earlier this week.

“Do more with less is not an acceptable approach, especially during a global pandemic. We must do right by our older adults,” said Adam Marles, President and CEO of LeadingAge PA.

“This is exactly what collaboration should look like between those on the front lines and those in state government,” said Zack Shamberg, President and CEO of PA Healthcare Association.

A spokesperson for the state department of health issued a statement to Eyewitness News in response to Yudichak’s concerns, saying the department is working closely with nursing homes across the state and is offering guidance and resources to them.

“We have been working to push personal protective equipment to all of our long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania and sent that equipment to all facilities earlier this month.”

“Individuals who are in congregate care settings such as nursing homes and the workers taking care of them are among those prioritized by the department and many testing locations across the state.”

The state senate Aging and Youth Committee will hold a hearing this Thursday to take a look at how the state department of health is responding to the COVID-19 impact on nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

You can read the entire statement from the Pennsylvania Department of Health here:

“When an infectious disease occurs in a congregate care facility, such as a nursing home, there are significant concerns as to how quickly it can spread among both residents and employees.

While we cannot comment on individual facilities at this time, the department is working with our long-term care facilities to assist them, particularly those with outbreaks and with significant areas of concern, which includes staffing issues. We have been working to push personal protective equipment to all of our long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania and sent that equipment to all facilities earlier this month. We have also been in constant communication with facilities of concern to assist them and check to see what potential needs they have, including PPE.

The state has pushed out to all health care facilities more than 4 million N95 masks, close to 242,000 gowns, close to 1.39 million procedure masks, more than 1.35 million gloves, more than 80,000 face shields, and more than 5,600 coveralls.

There has been guidance shared with all nursing home facilities in Pennsylvania to assist them with COVID-19. In addition, we are sharing all of our COVID-19 related materials with them.

Individuals who are in congregate care settings, such as nursing homes and the workers taking care of them, are among those prioritized by the department and many testing locations across the state.”

Nate Wardle, Press Secretary of the Department of Health’s Office of Communications

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