HARRISBURG, Pa. — Leaders of the Pennsylvania departments of Health and Military and Veterans Affairs, along with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, announced four long-term care regional support sites to relieve pressure on hospitals and skilled nursing facilities due to a high number of patients with COVID-19.
“Establishing these long-term care support sites will benefit hospitals and nursing homes caring for high numbers of patients with COVID-19,” Acting Secretary of Health Keara Klinepeter said. “This collaborative effort between state agencies and the healthcare community is the next step in the Wolf Administration’s multi-layered approach to relieve the strain on healthcare workers and facilities.
“COVID-19 hospitalizations remain at historically high levels and healthcare workers need some support to get through this current surge,” Klinepeter said.
Within the next seven to 10 days, regional support sites will open at the following skilled nursing facilities (SNF):
- Vincentian Home in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
- Lutheran Home in Hollidaysburg, Blair County
- Springs at the Watermark in Philadelphia
- Clarview Nursing Home and Rehabilitation in Sligo, Clarion County
In the coming days, about a dozen nurses and nursing aides from other areas of the state and neighboring states will be arriving to Vincentian Home. A team of about seven National Guard members will also be deployed.
“By Wednesday, we could be accepting patients into this dedicated unit,” said Vincentian Vice President of Clinical Excellence Laurie Cannella.
Together, they’ll be tasked with opening up an additional 30 beds and caring for non-COVID-19 and less ill patients discharged from nearby hospitals. It’s expected to free up space to meet COVID-19 demands.
“The purpose of this is to decompress and essentially discharge post-acute patients with skilled nursing and rehabilitative needs. Discharge them from the acute care hospitals into Vincentian Home as that stepping stone between acute care and their home,” said Cannella.
Funding is coming from FEMA. The state picked Vincentian because of state compliance and hospitalization rates. Klinepeter said despite recent declines in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, there are still currently more than 5,500 people hospitalized in Pennsylvania, and when hospitals are mostly full of COVID-19 patients, it could mean care is delayed for people who really need it.
“Since this is one prong of a multi-prong effort that we’re doing to support our hospitals, we’re going to see how this goes and continue to refine the process based on feedback we hear from them, as well as the skilled nursing facilities,” said Klinepeter.
DOH is continually working with hospitals to evaluate the need and stand up resources to meet the need for regional support. Staffing resources are anticipated to be deployed for approximately 90 days, based on demand.
Each facility will receive clinical and non-clinical support staff to open up to 30 beds to allow for more rapid discharge of patients from hospitals when clinically safe to do so, freeing additional acute care space to meet COVID-19 demands. General Healthcare Resources (GHR) will provide clinical staff, including RNs, LPNs and CNAs; Pennsylvania National Guard will provide non-clinical staffing to support the facility’s existing staff; and PEMA will assist in the coordination.
“I am truly grateful for the continued service and sacrifice of all our soldiers and airmen,” said Maj. Gen. Mark Schindler, Pennsylvania’s adjutant general and head of the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. “I am equally thankful to their families and employers who support them when they are called to serve. These missions are successful because of our partnership with the Department of Health and PEMA and our collaborative efforts demonstrate how government works together, in serving and supporting our communities, especially residents and the staff in long-term care facilities.”
“Our agency regularly works across all levels of government, and the public and private sector to lead collaborative planning efforts to respond to complex situations that present unique challenges such as the ongoing pandemic,” said PEMA Director Randy Padfield. “We’re pleased to continue to be involved in the planning and execution of this new initiative.”
DOH is contracting for clinical staff through GHR, which is focusing its staff engagement and recruitment on healthcare professionals from outside of Pennsylvania to avoid heightening current staffing limitations within the state.
This staffing assistance is separate from the state-directed strike teams currently deployed at Grand View Health in Bucks County and Crozer Health in the southeast, as well as federal strike teams deployed to hospitals in Scranton and York and extended into March.
Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation that appropriates $225 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funding to support the healthcare workforce in Pennsylvania. The bill and state-directed strike teams for hospitals are part of the multi-layered approach the Wolf Administration is taking to address and mitigate the current crisis in Pennsylvania. Additional initiatives include:
- Overseeing additional free COVID-19 testing sites currently operating in Berks, Blair, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Fayette, Monroe, Somerset and Venango counties through a partnership between the department and AMI Expeditionary Healthcare (AMI).
- Ensuring in-person learning continues by offering K-12 school districts free weekly COVID-19 services at no cost to participating schools through the departments of Health and Education, in partnership with Concentric by Gingko Bioworks.
- Educating counties, municipalities, and health systems about the federal reimbursement available to them for eligible COVID-related expenses including activities such as setting up their own community-based testing sites.
- Meeting with manufacturers to offer incentives to increase production of COVID-19 tests to meet the growing demand from the private sector to require the public to produce negative COVID-19 tests for travel, public events, dining, and more.
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