HARRISBURG, Pa. — A new bill aimed at protecting nursing home residents from sexual attacks is hoping to gain support from lawmakers at the Capitol.
Last week, State Representative Robert Matzie introduced House Bill 2341, legislation that would require nursing homes to alert staff and residents when a convicted sex offender is admitted to the nursing home.
"I believe that we need to ensure that our most vulnerable are safe," said Rep. Matzie who serves the 16th district that includes Beaver and Allegheny Counties.
Although the bill is similar to Megan's law, which requires state police to make information public regarding convicted sex offenders, Matzie said that there is not a registry like this for Pennsylvania nursing homes.
"I think a lot of people were shocked there were nothing on the books, from democrats, republicans, from advocates," Matzie said.
If the bill becomes law, it will notify nursing home facilities when a convicted sex offender is admitted or in close proximity. When this occurs, it will mandate the facility to report the information to the Department of Health, which will create a centralized registry that would function as a Megan's Law for nursing homes.
The Pennsylvania Health Care Association is in favor of the bill but said frequently monitoring and updating the registry would add more duties to workers who are already overwhelmed with patients.
"It's likely going to take more time away from residents' bedside where we need workers most," said Zach Shamberg, the President and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association.
In response, Matzie fired back.
"I would argue, if you poll every staff member that works in a nursing home, they would want to know if there was a sex offender on their floor," he said.
Matzie said after speaking with democrats and republicans about the bill, he is confident that it will get assigned to a committee. He has also asked Governor Wolf to take executive action, but he is still awaiting a response.