HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro said Tuesday that his office has opened criminal investigations into several nursing homes across the state over the last few weeks, and reaffirmed that he will continue to investigate any nursing home that engages in criminal neglect of patients and residents.
While the Pennsylvania Department of Health has primary regulating and licensing authority of nursing homes throughout the Commonwealth, Shapiro said, the Attorney General’s Care-Dependent Neglect Team, within the Medicaid Fraud Control Section, has jurisdiction on matters of criminal neglect.
“Protecting seniors and our most vulnerable in the care of others, is one of the core responsibilities of my office and we’re stepping up to protect older Pennsylvanians during this crisis," Shapiro said in a press release. "We will hold nursing facilities and caretakers criminally accountable if they fail to properly provide care to our loved ones.
"While we salute and appreciate nursing home staff on the front lines during this pandemic, we will not tolerate those who mistreat our seniors and break the law. Active criminal investigations are already underway, and we encourage people to share relevant complaints with us on our special tip line so we can best protect people in nursing homes.”
Under Pennsylvania law, Shapiro said, neglect of a care-dependent person occurs under a high threshold of certain circumstances when the caretaker of a person fails to properly provide for their health, safety, and welfare.
The Attorney General’s Neglect Team reviews allegations regarding specific instances of mistreatment of care-dependent adults who are endangered or suffer injury resulting from caretaker neglect to determine whether criminal charges are appropriate, and if so, prosecutes such cases, according to Shapiro.
The Office of Attorney General receives referrals for criminal investigation from local officials, the Department of Health, and members of the public, Shapiro said.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office is launching a public email for criminal complaints and reports of neglect in nursing home communities at neglect-COVID@attorneygeneral.gov.
For concerns relating to wellness checks, adequate PPE, or COVID-19 testing within a facility, Shaprio said, residents are advised to contact Department of Health at 1-800-254-5164.
For emergencies involving immediate danger to the person, people should contact 911 or 1-877-PA-HEALTH.