Legislation to Protect Nursing Home Residents Earns Senate Approval

HARRISBURG – Residents of assisted living facilities and other long-term care homes would be better protected against disease outbreaks under a bill approved by the Senate today, according to Senator Ryan Aument (R-36), who supported the bill.

Senate Bill 1189 would require the Secretary of Health to ensure long-term care facilities to follow and implement disease prevention and control guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The bill would also require the Department of Health to ensure that no individual who has tested positive for a communicable disease within 14 days is placed in a facility without being placed in isolation. The Secretary of Health would be prevented from forcing the admission of a patient to a long-term care facility without considering the ability of the facility to care for the patient.

The need for the legislation was magnified by the COVID-19 pandemic. Orders from the Department of Health mandated that older residents who tested positive for COVID-19 were returned to nursing homes.

“It is widely known that nursing home residents are among our most vulnerable populations with some of the highest rates of infection and death from this virus,” said Aument. “As such, we must do all that we can to support long-term care facilities so that they are able to adequately protect their residents and staff. This includes ensuring that the Department of Health can never again issue an order that unnecessarily puts these residents and staff at risk by exposing them to a highly-contagious virus.”

Approximately two-thirds of all COVID-19 deaths in Pennsylvania were residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.

The Senate Aging and Youth Committee also advanced a bill this week to ensure safe visitation for nursing home residents. Senate Bill 1279 would allow facilities to designate at least one essential caregiver per resident that would be permitted to visit and care for their loved ones.

Many Pennsylvania families faced COVID-19 restrictions that prevented them from visiting their loved ones, even when following all safety protocols.

“One major concern that I’ve heard repeatedly over the last few months from families of residents and administrators of long-term care facilities alike was for the deterioration of the residents’ mental health during the governor’s strict lockdown,” said Aument. “These residents felt lonely and isolated from their loved ones, with little-to-no options for in-person visits for an indefinite period of time. Senate Bill 1279 appropriately balances the need for visitation with safety protocols, and I believe it is an important measure for our elderly and their families who have been separated for far too long.”

Senate Bill 1189 was sent to the House of Representatives for consideration. Senate Bill 1279 moves to the full Senate for consideration.

CONTACT:  Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420

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