Collaboration and accountability between administration, care providers key in long-term care COVID-19 recovery

HARRISBURG, Feb. 16 -- State Rep. Joe Hohenstein, D-Phila., hosted today’s House Democratic Policy Committee hearing where legislators heard from state agencies and long-term care facility staff about how long-term care facilities are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.

Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, shared, “Our long-term care facilities have the  enormous task of caring for our most vulnerable population. I thank Representative Hohenstein for his advocacy and look forward to working with the administration to prioritize our long-term care facilities and streamline processes so we can protect residents and the staff that cares for them.”

The committee heard testimony from Andy Pickett and Keara Klinepeter from the PA Department of Health and Kristin Ahrens from the PA Department of Human Services on their efforts to respond efficiently to the need for vaccines in long-term care facilities. Matt Yarnell and Artinese Malachi of SEIU Healthcare PA shared compelling testimony about the emotional toll COVID is taking on patients, their families and the workers that care for them. Malachi shared the sadness of knowing patients would succumb to the virus and the challenges of working with limited personal protective equipment.

Anne Henry, senior vice president and chief government affairs officer with LeadingAge PA, highlighted the need for improved efficiency in the state’s allocation of funding, vaccine and supplies to facilities, noting that the pandemic exacerbated existing problems with staff and supply shortages.

“We cannot overlook that these workers are doing difficult work and deserve a fair wage. These were challenging roles even before the pandemic hit. Now, the challenges are even more apparent,” Hohenstein explained. “We have a lot of work to do to protect workers and those living in these facilities. We must focus on a collaborative effort that brings about meaningful solutions that will improve accountability and move us forward. Part of that is looking at fair wages for caregivers.” 

The committee will continue to explore solutions to aid Pennsylvania in COVID-19 recovery efforts. 

Hearing testimony and video is available by clicking here.