Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today urged the Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) and Department of Health (DOH) to release more information about the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths occurring in state-run veterans homes.
“Our veterans and their families deserve to have a full and complete picture of what’s happening inside Pennsylvania’s veterans homes,” DePasquale said. “Without more specific information, families are left to worry about their loved ones.”
In Pennsylvania, more than half of all COVID-19 deaths have occurred in long-term care facilities but the Department of Health will not release data for individual facilities. DePasquale said if there are legal barriers to doing so, then legislators should quickly update the law.
“Instead of engaging in partisan bickering over who is to blame for what, this needs to be fixed immediately,” DePasquale said.
In addition, DePasquale urged the DMVA to create a mechanism to allow families to register a concern regarding the care of a loved one.
DePasquale applauded the Pennsylvania National Guard for providing temporary staffing assistance at long-term care facilities where numerous employees have called off work due to illness.
Earlier this month, DePasquale announced he will follow up on his 2016 audit of Pennsylvania’s six veterans homes after the coronavirus crisis eases. The audit raised concerns about the DMVA’s waiting list and admission procedures and found deficiencies in how staff at veterans homes handle complaints.
Due to the coronavirus, individuals who apply to reside at a state veterans home are currently being placed on a waiting list.
State veterans homes are: Delaware Valley Veterans Home (Philadelphia County); Gino J. Merli Veterans Center (Lackawanna County); Hollidaysburg Veterans Home (Blair County); Pennsylvania Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Home (Erie County); Southeastern Veterans Center (Chester County); and Southwestern Veterans Center (Allegheny County).