HARRISBURG, Pa. (WTAJ) — Department of Human Services (DHS) Secretary Teresa Miller and Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine today announced that all assisted living residences, personal care homes, and private intermediate care facilities have completed universal baseline COVID-19 testing.
To date, 100 percent of the 1,363 DHS-licensed personal care homes, assisted living residences, and private intermediate care facilities have completed universal baseline testing by the August 31 deadline.
“Pennsylvania’s long-term care system serves more than 127,000 people living in nursing homes, personal care homes, assisted living residences, and private intermediate care facilities. We must learn from experiences of the last six months and continue to strengthen prevention and response efforts as this pandemic evolves,” said Sec. Miller. “Protecting medically fragile and vulnerable residents of long-term care facilities requires constant vigilance, and this universal baseline testing is a critical step in allowing these facilities to know the status of COVID-19 in their facility that will inform mitigation efforts and steps necessary to keep residents and staff safe as we move into the fall.”
On June 26, Dr. Levine signed an expanded testing order, directing personal care homes, assisted living residences, and private intermediate care facilities to test all residents and staff at least once by August 31. This order was based on a similar directive to nursing facilities licensed by DOH that completed initial universal testing as of July 24. This universal testing allows facilities to assess the status of COVID-19 in their facility, evaluate mitigation and response plans and procedures if cases occur, and set a foundation for greater preparedness moving forward.
“Universal testing allows us to see a full picture of COVID-19 among some of our most vulnerable Pennsylvanians,” Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. “We are pleased by the work done by the facilities and our partners to complete this. The assistance of partners such as the RRHCs, CVS Health, and Eurofins has been integral as part of this work.”
The Regional Response Health Collaborative (RRHC) Program has helped facilities complete testing and meet this requirement. Launched in late July, the RRHC Program was established to provide clinical support, technical assistance, and education to long-term care facilities as they work to prevent and mitigate spread of COVID-19. The RRHCs are available 24/7 to support the nearly 2,000 nursing facilities, personal care homes, assisted living residences, and private intermediate care facilities in Pennsylvania and the residents they serve.
Each RRHC is required to make a minimum of two on-site visits to each facility in their region, including an initial on-site assessment that will help the RRHC evaluate a facility’s COVID-19 prevention and mitigation strategies and their preparedness to respond to an outbreak if that were to occur. Based on this assessment, the RRHCs will help those facilities implement best practices in infection control, implement contact tracing programs in facilities, support clinical care through on-site and telemedicine services, and provide remote monitoring and consultation with physicians. RRHCs are in regular communication with DHS, DOH, and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to report on experiences interacting with facilities, trends experienced by facilities, and potential challenges. The RRHCs and the regions they serve are:
- Southeast Region:
- Thomas Jefferson University in partnership with Main Line Health and Lehigh Valley Health Network
- University of Pennsylvania in partnership with Temple University Hospital, Inc.
- Northeast Region:
- Geisinger Clinic
- Lehigh Valley Hospital, Inc.
- Southcentral Region:
- The Pennsylvania State University
- Northcentral Region:
- Geisinger Clinic
- Southwest Region:
- UPMC Community Provider Services in partnership with Allegheny Health Network, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, and the Hospital Council of Western PA
- Northwest Region:
- LECOM Health
- UPMC Community Provider Services in partnership with Allegheny Health Network, The Jewish Healthcare Foundation, and the Hospital Council of Western PA
When a RRHC engages with a facility or is called in to help with a concern identified from collaboration between DHS, DOH, and PEMA during daily calls, these are classified as missions. A mission could be anything from assistance with testing, assessing a facility’s preparedness, staffing support, rapid response deployment to facilities, personal protective equipment (PPE) support, testing to ensure PPE is properly fitted, and questions or concerns requiring consultation.
Since launching, the RRHCs have been assigned more than 3,000 missions, primarily covering testing, consultations, facility assessments, and support with PPE. Specifically, the RRHCs have conducted 64 total rapid response team deployments, with 57 of those completed at this time. The rapid response teams are comprised of registered nurses, clinicians, epidemiologists, and infection control experts. More than 650 on-site facilities visits have occurred as the RRHCs work to assist long-term care facilities. The RRHC call centers have received more than 600 calls to assist facilities with universal testing, staffing support, PPE, and testing kits.
The RRHCs are also working with the Jewish Healthcare Foundation to operate a statewide learning network available to all long-term care facilities. This network holds regular webinars on topics related to infection control and the latest guidance for responding to and mitigating spread of COVID-19. These webinars have reached more than 1,800 participants since the start of the RRHC program.