Pennsylvania health official draws fire after her mother leaves care facility as coronavirus patients return

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine defended herself Wednesday after reports that her 95-year-old mother relocated from a care facility after Levine said such centers could begin accepting coronavirus patients discharged from hospitals.

Cases of the virus in nursing homes have skyrocketed in Pennsylvania, with about two-thirds of the state’s 3,800 deaths being residents of long-term care facilities, PennLive reported.

“My mother requested and my sister and I, as her children, complied to move her to another location during the COVID-19 outbreak,” Levine said in a news conference, according to Harrisburg’s WHTM-TV. “My mother is 95 years old. She is very intelligent and more than competent to make her own decisions.”

But Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano called for Levine’s resignation this week over her handling of nursing home outbreaks, specifically a policy calling for nursing home residents hospitalized with the virus to be returned to the care centers once they’re ready to leave the hospital, according to PennLive.

“Our secretary of health, Dr. Levine, decided that it would be good to allow COVID-positive patients to be returned to elder-care facilities. And as a result of that, it broke out like fire,” Mastriano said during a protest rally Monday.

“Our secretary of health, Dr. Levine, decided that it would be good to allow COVID-positive patients to be returned to elder-care facilities. And as a result of that, it broke out like fire.”

— Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, Republican

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, defended Levine.

“Dr. Levine has done a phenomenal job of making sure that we do what we need to do in keeping Pennsylvanians safe,” he said, according to PennLive. “I think it’s a tribute to her that Pennsylvania has actually done a better job than many of our surrounding states in terms of the infection rate and the death rate.”

Levine announced a strategy this week to help protect care facility residents, which includes mobilizing Pennsylvania’s National Guard to provide mobile testing for places unable to do it themselves. And facilities will be required to report testing, cases and deaths using the same system as hospitals.

Levine said all residents who are hospitalized will be tested for the virus before returning home.

“By testing every resident and every staff member in every nursing home, we will be able to pinpoint exactly who has COVID-19, who has been exposed but has no symptoms, and cohort positive cases to prevent further spread,” she said, according to WHTM.

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