Senate Approves Senator Kim Ward’s Legislation to Protect Nursing Home Residents During Outbreaks

HARRISBURG –  Legislation sponsored  by Senator Kim Ward (R-39) to protect residents of assisted living facilities and other long-term care homes during disease outbreaks was approved today by the Pennsylvania Senate.

Senate Bill 1189 would require the Secretary of Health to ensure long-term care facilities 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 statistics have made it abundantly clear that the approach taken this year by the Pennsylvania Department of Health failed to protect our nursing home residents – the most vulnerable population in COVID-19 current pandemic,” Ward said. “While the Pennsylvania Department of Health has changed course with their approach to address COVID-19 in long-term living facilities, this bill will put protections for our seniors and most vulnerable into state law.”

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 measure would also ensure that facilities are adequately equipped to follow recommendations and guidelines issued by the CDC and the CMS for the prevention and control of the communicable disease with facilities, including personal protective equipment for individuals admitted or working within the facility, laboratory testing and staff accessibility.

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.

On May 15, 2020, 3,000 COVID-19 deaths were attributable to long-term living facilities. As of today, 67% of all statewide COVID-19 deaths were residents of long-term living facilities. 

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


CONTACT: Caitrin Wilson