Yudichak announces program to help nursing homes combat COVID-19

Yudichak announces program to help nursing homes combat COVID-19


By Patrick Kernan pkernan@timesleader.com

State Sen. John Yudichak on Wednesday announced the establishment of a $500,000 program to assist Luzerne County nursing homes during the COVID-19 global health crisis.

The program, called the NEPA Nursing Home SOS Program, comes in part as a collaboration between the Earth Conservancy and AllOne Foundation and Charities, which both donated $250,000 each.

During a virtual press conference held over Zoom, Yudichak, I-Swoyersville, said that funds like the NEPA Nursing Home SOS Program are necessary, as nursing homes has become the “epicenter” of the fight against COVID-19 in Pennsylvania, and most of the rest of the country as well.

“Severely under-resourced nursing homes in PA now account for over 60% of the statewide COVID-19 related deaths,” Yudichak said. “In Luzerne County, nursing homes account for over 65% of the COVID-19 deaths and in Carbon County, nursing homes account for over 80% of the COVID-19 deaths.”

According to statistics provided to reporters by Senator Yudichak’s office, Luzerne County’s nursing homes have seen 272 cases so far of the virus, accounting for 13% of the county’s total 2,078 cases. Meanwhile, 48 of the county’s 74 deaths from the disease have been in nursing homes as well.

This is relatively consistent with statistics statewide, which show 19% of Pennsylvania’s total cases and 63% of the total deaths occurring within nursing homes.

Yudichak said this is incongruous with the state Department of Health’s current strategy when it comes to dealing with the virus outbreak in nursing homes, which Yudichak characterizes as not much of a response at all.

“The Pennsylvania Department of Health currently has no COVID-19 Nursing Home Response Plan in place, and the lack of statewide response plan has resulted in serious shortages of COVID-19 safety supplies in our nursing homes and it has limited the release of vital public health information to families, first responders and the public,” Yudichak said.

So the SOS Program, which stands for “Supply Operate Save,” was born in an attempt to ensure that supplies could be delivered to the nursing home, while calling on the Department of Health to develop a plan.

Yudichak was joined on the call by John Cosgrove, CEO of the All One Foundation, Terry Ostrowski, CEO of the Earth Conservancy, Jim Brogna, a Vice President at Allied Services, Zach Shamberg, the CEO of PA Health Care Association, Adam Marles, the CEO of LeadingAgePA, and Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown.

Shamberg and Marles voiced some frustration with the Wolf administration, suggesting they had written a letter to the administration a month ago alerting it to the risks posed by nursing homes, but they said they have heard no response. Yudichak said, after the first American outbreak of the virus occurred in a Seattle-area nursing home, this should have served as a “wake-up call.”

Yudichak said the NEPA Nursing Home SOS Program is the first of its kind in the state, and believes it may be the first of its kind in the nation.