A Beaver County woman has filed a federal lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH), alleging it is failing to provide appropriate safeguards for her father who is a resident of the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center nursing home.
Jodi Gill’s litigation states that her father, 81-year-old Glenn Oscar Gill, has been placed in danger due to inactions by the DOH. She is seeking class-action status to have the DOH provide additional protections for patients in nursing homes statewide.
Brighton Rehab, located in Brighton Township, is the site of one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the state. The facility is not a party to the litigation.
In a phone interview with her attorneys today, Gill told BeaverCountian.com she felt compelled to help all people similarly situated to her father.
“Our elderly and vulnerable in Pennsylvania deserve much better,” Gill said. “I am hoping to fight for them.”
Gill is a licensed attorney, professor at Penn State University Beaver, and also serves as an elected board member of the Ambridge Area School District.
She is being represented by a consortium of four law firms, including Robert Peirce & Associates and Massa, Butler, Giglione (both based in Pittsburgh), along with Shrager & Sachsin and Kanter, Bernstein & Kardon (based out of Philadelphia).
“We consider this the type of problem that takes a village, which is why there are four firms on it,” Robert Daley, an attorney on the case, told BeaverCountian.com.
“Jodi Gill is a representative of people who are residents at skilled nursing facilities and long-term care facilities. She is asking on behalf of her father to have the PA Department of Health do the appropriate inspections.”
The litigation makes serious allegations against DOH.
“This case concerns the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PA DOH) policy and practice of denying appropriate safeguards and care to nursing home residents,” alleges the complaint. “This case also concerns biomedical research without authorization or consent.”
Gill alleges DOH’s inspections of nursing homes in Pennsylvania, including Brighton Rehab, have “come nearly to a halt,” putting residents of the facilities at high risk for contracting COVID-19.
“The failure of the PA DOH to conduct inspections has also resulted in the apparent biomedical experimentation on residents under the guise of clinical trials,” the complaint continues. “It is unlikely such egregious conduct could have occurred had inspections not been halted.”
Gill alleges Dr. Rachel Levine, in her capacity as Pennsylvania Secretary of Health, has failed to take proper action to protect those living in nursing homes.
“When the Secretary fails to act, anyone may move to enforce the law,” the complaint states.
Gill alleges residents of the nursing homes are unable to adequately distance themselves from others, and that “staff are not properly equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE) sufficient to prevent infection and cross-contamination.”
The complaint alleges that DOH interim guidelines allowed for discrimination against those with disabilities.
“The intent of the guidelines was to keep the disabled from using resources which could be allocated to the non-disabled, thereby causing them harm,” the complaint alleges. “This was a blatant attempt to create police which stated that the lives of the disabled are not as valuable as the lives of those who are not disabled. This is the essence of discrimination solely on the basis of disability.”
The complaint continues, “the PA DOH had knowledge that at least one (long-term care facility) was experimenting on its residents with unproven, unauthorized medication in an attempt to see if it prevented them from contracting COVID-19. The PA DOH failed to take action.”
Gill is asking the court to require the DOH to: provide COVID-19 testing, quarantine, and any other necessary health benefits available to the public at large; prevent residents of nursing homes from being experimented on without proper consent; inspect all facilities to determine whether cases of COVID-19 exist, segregate individuals who are positive to prevent further spread, and provide residents with appropriate PPE; report publicly and to residents (and families) of each facility the number of COVID-19 positive residents along with plans for mitigation, employ adequate staff to fulfill its obligations and consider the needs of persons with disabilities in future public health planning.
DOH spokesman Nate Wardle told BeaverCountian.com the department was unable to comment on pending litigation.