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Complaint Filed Against PA Dept. of Health for COVID-19 Response at Nursing Homes

PHILADELPHIA, PA, April 29, 2020—Four Pennsylvania law firms—Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco, Kanter, Bernstein & Kardon PC, Massa, Butler, Giglione, and Robert Peirce & Associates, P.C. have filed a joint complaint against the Pennsylvania Department of Health regarding the responses and measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic at skilled nursing facilities across Pennsylvania. The plaintiff is a family member of a long term care facility resident.

The claim, filed on April 28th, 2020, alleges that residents in multiple facilities were and are being denied safeguards and mitigation measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus, including personal protective equipment (PPE), proper social distancing, and isolation plans for those testing positive. This is in violation of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and federal and state regulations concerning inspections and investigations of long term care facilities, including the Social Security Act and its implementing regulations, the Civil Rights Act as it applies to the Federal Nursing Home Reform Amendments, and the Pennsylvania Disease Prevention and Control Law.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is responsible of ensuring the safety and health of all Pennsylvania citizens, including residents in long term care facilities, and is required to perform inspections under the Social Security Act. The complaint alleges that these inspections have “come nearly to a halt” during the current public health emergency, placing the community most vulnerable to the virus (the elderly, disabled, and immunocompromised) at serious risk of transmission. Denying crucial PPE and reactionary plans has further placed residents and staff members at risk.

In addition, it has been found that at least one facility in the state is conducting biomedical experimentation on residents, using an unproven, unauthorized hydroxychloroquine drug, under the guise of a clinical trial. Residents and family members are being asked to sign “consent” forms, but the forms may not contain all the language and details needed to properly give informed consent.

Robert L. Sachs, Jr. Esq., one of the attorneys representing the plaintiff, has this to say regarding the complaint:

“This case represents a wholesale abandonment of Pennsylvania’s seniors living in skilled nursing facilities by the Department of Health. Instead of stepping up inspections to ensure that infection control practices were scrupulously enforced, they left seniors in nursing homes without proper social distancing, without adequate personal protective equipment, and without any plan to isolate those who tested positive for COVID-19. Even worse, in at least one Beaver County facility, they failed to intervene and prevent a so-called “study” of the drug hydroxychloroquine in violation of every national and international protocol on the ethical performance of medical experimentation. Sadly, these seniors were sitting ducks for a study of a drug that has now been wholly discredited by competent medical investigations.”

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