Federal officials are investigating a Pennsylvania nursing home where dozens of residents died from the coronavirus, U.S. Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar announced Friday.
“When you have this many deaths in one facility, you just have to send your federal inspectors in to make sure we find out what happened and demand accountability, because at the end of the day, these are our Medicaid and Medicare beneficiaries being put at risk,” Azar said, according to CBS affiliate KDKA.
This past week, Azar, a Pennsylvania-native, made a trip back home to meet with local hospital leaders and business owners. The main goal was to discuss concerns relating to the coronavirus.
During the trip, Azar especially focused on the case of the Brighton Rehab and Wellness Center nursing home facility, located in Beaver County in western Pennsylvania.
According to the most recent data from the Department of Health, this particular facility has seen 368 residents contract the coronavirus and 76 succumb to it. In addition, 31 employees also tested positive for COVID-19.
Federal inspectors visited the facility between May 12 – 14, according to KDKA. The state of Pennsylvania is also investigating the facility.
The nursing home problem
We are still learning quite a lot about the coronavirus. But one thing that we know for sure is that it is particularly devastating for the elderly.
It is no surprise then that nursing homes across the country, like the one in Pennsylvania, have been hard hit. But, at the same time, there are indications that proper measures have not been taken to contain the spread of the virus in these facilities — hence, the investigation.
“If you practice proper infectious disease control, disease should not spread even in a nursing home. It’s not acceptable,” Azar said Friday in an exclusive interview with the Washington Examiner.
The nursing home problem, for example, has been especially bad in New York, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has taken a lot of criticism for it. Critics allege the governor and his administration made the situation much worse than it needed to be in a variety of ways from improperly reporting nursing home cases to requiring that nursing homes take infected individuals to not providing the proper protective equipment for staff.
These are the reasons, say the critics, that New York has seen over 6,000 nursing home and adult care facility deaths.
To further put the Pennsylvania situation into perspective, nursing home and long-term care facility resident deaths have accounted for roughly two-thirds of the state’s COVID-19 deaths. That is roughly 3,500 out of 5,300.
As Azar said, “It is important that all of our states take this seriously.” Indeed, we certainly need to get our country back running, but as we do so we need to make sure that we keep the elderly and other vulnerable groups protected.