State Rep. Rob Matzie (D-Beaver/Allegheny) is proposing legislation that would require the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOP) to provide greater protections for nursing home residents and employees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Matzie began circulating a co-sponsorship memorandum to his fellow legislators today, seeking support for a law that would mandate the DOH to conduct immediate inspections of all long-term care facilities in the state. His legislation would also require the DOH to assess each facility’s infection control procedures, provide COVID-19 testing for every resident and worker, and present all of its findings to the public.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all sectors of our Commonwealth, but none more so than our nursing homes,” Matzie wrote in his letter to colleagues. “Staff and residents are being infected at much higher rates than the general public, with the death toll alarmingly high.
“Clearly, enough is not being done to mitigate and combat COVID-19 in these facilities … We speak often of our most vulnerable citizens. Here they are and they need our help.”
If passed into law, the DOH would be required to provide needed personnel and resources to help facilities deal with an outbreak of COVID-19 in real-time.
Matzie’s proposed legislation comes just two days after one of his constituents filed litigation against the DOH seeking similar protections. Ambridge resident Jodi Gill’s federal class-action lawsuit was sparked by concern for her father, Glenn, who is an 81-year-old resident of the Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Brighton Township.
Brighton Rehab has been the subject of international scrutiny as one of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 in a nursing home. Both the facility and the state have refused to release specific numbers, but it’s believed that among its 468 residents, more than 240 have been infected and 58 have died with the virus. An additional 18 employees also appear to have contracted COVID-19.
Pittsburgh attorney Robert Daley, who is representing Gill as part of her litigation team, applauded Matzie’s proposed legislation and said he hopes to see it become law.
“In light of the DOH’s apparent refusal to do in-person surveys in the midst of the COVID pandemic, this type of legislation would ensure that our most vulnerable and most valuable members of society are protected,” Daley told BeaverCountian.com.
“I am also pleased to see that the goal of the legislation echoes that of the lawsuit filed by (Ms. Jodi Gill) on behalf of her father. (She) really stepped up and I urge all of our elected representatives to do the same.”