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Pennsylvania Supports Care Homes Battling with COVID-19

State General Healthcare Resources will deploy onsite assessment teams to assist with infection control practices, provide emergency staffing for overwhelmed care centers and training on personal protective equipment.

by David Hurst, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa. / June 16, 2020
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(TNS) – The Department of Health is partnering with a Montgomery County medical staffing agency in a move state officials say will provide support to nursing homes hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

General Healthcare Resources will deploy onsite assessment teams to assist with infection control practices, provide emergency staffing for overwhelmed care centers and training on personal protective equipment, Department of Health officials said in a release to media.

The company will also assist with specimen collection for COVID-19 testing.

“COVID-19 is a particularly challenging situation for congregate settings, particularly our long-term care facilities," Department of Health Secretary Rachel Levine said. "These teams are assisting us in our response in the hardest-hit areas as we work to protect the public health and safety of Pennsylvanians."

Through the agreement, the Department of Health will cover the cost to fund and deploy 41 General Healthcare Resources employees, she said.

Department of Health spokesman Nate Wardle said the contract with the company could run as high as $999,999 based on services provided through Dec. 31.

The price tag will be covered by federal Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act funds, he added.

While coronavirus cases continue to increase at a slow rate in Cambria and Somerset counties, long-term care facilities haven't been a driver behind it, Department of Health figures show.

Somerset County hasn't recorded a single care home case – neither an employee or resident.

One Cambria County facility in the Hastings area reported one resident case in May.

Forest Hills Personal Care Home Administrator Christine Weaver said Monday her Sidman-based facility was still awaiting details on the state's partnership announcement.

Like other facilities across the region, the 45-resident Forest Hills care home has been preparing for the possibility that a resident could have a positive test result by making sure both staff and their building itself are prepared for it, she said.

"We created an isolation room in our facility with equipment designated for that room as well as call bells, so that if something happens, we'll be ready to deal with it," Weaver said. "Fortunately, we haven't had to use it."

Weaver credited the Department of Health for continuing to provide information and support to the personal care home through the pandemic.

In recent months, the department has also been working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to support and training to long-term care facilities.

General Healthcare Resources President Laurel Magner said her company is glad to add its support.

“We’re honored to be supporting this program and are committed to providing the state of Pennsylvania with the professional, qualified staff they need to meet this challenge within the senior community,” Magner said. "If you’re an experienced RN, LPN, Medical Assistant, CNA, EMT or other health-care professional interested in joining this effort, please contact us at 800-879-4471.”

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