CENTER – Rep. Josh Kail (R-Beaver/Washington) is outraged by the Wolf Administration’s decision to prohibit Beaver County from beginning to reopen even as the rest of western Pennsylvania has been given permission to move to the yellow phase of reopening on Friday, May 15.
“Beaver County should be in yellow. Outside of one nursing facility that is overseen by the Department of Health (DOH), we have well under 200 cases. Our small businesses are suffering, our workers are not getting paid and our hospital system is nearing financial ruin,” Kail said.
In a partnership with Reps. Jim Marshall (R-Beaver/Butler) and Aaron Bernstine (R-Beaver/Butler/Lawrence), Kail sent a letter to DOH Secretary Rachel Levine
expressing their deep concern with the DOH’s reckless handling of nursing home oversight across the state and in Beaver County in particular.
During the public health crisis that resulted in Levine and Gov. Tom Wolf shutting down the state, Levine issued official guidance stating that “nursing care facilities must continue to accept new admissions and receive readmissions for current residents who have been discharged from the hospital. . . . This may include stable patients who have had the COVID-19 virus.”
Even as local news reported that Brighton Rehab was operating as if all 800 residents and staff were positive for COVID-19, Levine did not respond to the request for a COVID-19-specific nursing home.
“The Department of Health – through its lack of response to many requests, inquiries and suggestions that I and others have offered – mandated COVID-19 patients be taken back into Brighton Rehab. More than 60 residents died,” Kail explained.
“The only action from the department regarding the situation we’re facing has been to prohibit the rest of Beaver County, even though it has very few cases, from starting to reopen,” Kail added. “If the potential spread is so dire that we have to shutter businesses and prohibit people
from earning a living to feed their families, wouldn’t ways to protect the most vulnerable at least warrant a response?
“Additionally, why would the governor release prisoners from jails across the state citing the danger of viral spread in enclosed facilities, yet force the most vulnerable who are sick and elderly nursing home residents to return to enclosed facilities? We sent two letters in March to the DOH citing two facilities where sick seniors could be temporarily placed and cared for while the most vulnerable among us could have been protected, yet no action was taken,” Kail explained.
Back in March, a bipartisan group of federal, state and county officials, including Kail, sent a letter to the governor and DOH asking that the vacant Ellwood City Hospital be used as a resource in the pandemic. He and his colleagues in Washington County also sent Levine a letter requesting that a vacant nursing home in Washington County be converted into a home where seniors who have COVID-19 could receive proper care without risking the lives of other vulnerable senior citizens. Again, no action was taken.
“DOH workers are supposed to provide oversight of nursing homes. Their lack of response to the situation at Brighton Rehab, a crisis they were supposed to be managing, is now also responsible for holding Beaver County hostage as the only county in western Pennsylvania prevented from safely going back to work,” Kail said.
Roughly 300 of the 472 COVID-19 cases in Beaver County are in Brighton Rehab.
Representative Joshua Kail
15th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives