DOJ Won’t Investigate PA COVID Nursing Home Regulations

The Justice Department has decided against investigating regulations implemented by Pennsylvania during the coronavirus pandemic, says the Associated Press. The DOJ informed Gov. Tom Wolf’s office of its decision in a July 22 letter from special litigation chief Steven H. Rosenbaum, who said the department reached its decision following the review of information supplied by the state. Last August, Pennsylvania—along with New Jersey, New York, and Michigan—was required to hand over information to the DOJ to help the department decide whether or not to open an investigation toward determining if orders given to nursing homes during the pandemic contributed to the deaths of thousands of residents.

At question was whether federal law had been violated when the state ordered nursing homes to accept residents who had been hospitalized for COVID-19. Federal data reveals that over 250,000 COVID patients were accepted by American nursing home in the 12 months after the coronavirus hit.  Pennsylvania accounted for only about 12,300 of these, despite being a state with one of the highest proportions of elderly residents. While Gov. Wolf’s policy was strongly criticized by Republican lawmakers and became a focus—along with that of the three other Democrat governors—of then-President Donald Trump’s Justice Department, according to the AP no nursing home was forced to accept a COVID-positive patient against its will; moreover, the DOJ won’t investigate PA COVID nursing home regulations or concretely indicate the order directly resulted in an outbreak or death. Instead, according to research conducted by the American Health Care Association, virus outbreaks in nursing homes resulted from a home’s location, asymptomatic spread, and availability of testing.

As COVID-19 ravaged American nursing homes last spring and facilities battled to contain the virus with a dearth of staff, PPE, and testing supplies, directions came from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about developing a plan for admitting COVID patients and readmitting COVID-positive residents. Homes were told to keep these residents in single rooms or discrete observation areas. In March of last year the American Health Care Association directed nursing homes to safely appropriate admissions from the hospital by separating these residents from non-infected residents in designated wings, units, or floors, and to assign them designated staff.

Securing the Safety of Your Loved One

It is important to ensure that your loved one is safe and healthy while residing in his or her Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home. Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing homes are required to meet specific health and safety requirements and to protect the physical, mental, and psycho/social well-being of their residents. Should you have concerns about a Pennsylvania or New Jersey nursing home during COVID-19, or if you suspect neglect, abuse, or fraud has occurred at the Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home where your loved one lives, please contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.