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Pa. leaders call on the federal government for additional support for long term care facilities

The call to action comes after a federally funded program which supported the state's nursing homes with COVID-19 testing, PPE, and staffing has expired.

PENNSYLVANIA, USA — State leaders are calling on the federal government for additional support.

"At this point, we just need the federal government to help state governments out," said Teresa Miller, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services.

That's because the Regional Response Health Collaborative Program or RRHCP has expired. The partnership between state agencies and 11 health systems across the state supported more than 2,000 long term care facilities over the course of the pandemic. It provides facilities with COVID-19 testing, PPE, staffing, and more.

UPMC, which has hospitals in York, Lancaster, Dauphin, and Cumberland Counties, recently touted the program's benefits.

The Regional Response Health Collaborative Program (RRHCP) launched in Pennsylvania in July 2020. It is a collaboration between: The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services The Pennsylvania Department of Health The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency 11 health care systems across Pennsylvania, including UPMC The purpose of the program is to support the state's long-term care system by offering COVID-19 readiness and response services.

"Quick response is imperative. Strong mitigation strategies is one of our greatest lines of defense to reduce strain on our hospitals and ultimately save lives," said Miller.

Miller says the Wolf Administration has leveraged $6 million for this month and February to maintain its own rapid response. However, it's not nearly as substantive as the Regional Response Health Collaborative Program. For example, officials say take a COVID-19 outbreak in a long term care facility and staff who must take time off because they are sick.

"One of the key differences is the duration of support, and the volume of support. Under RRHCP, there were instances where facilities would need crisis staff support for two weeks or so," said Keara Klinepeter, Special Advisor to the Department of Health (DOH). 

"A lot of things are out of control now," said Miller. We don't know what the pandemic will look like in a week or month from now. We will use the RCAT and the National Guard to collaborate to support long-term care facilities as much as we are able."

Miller says the Department of Human Services will work with Congress and the incoming Biden Administration to pave a path forward with what they hope is more funding to states for long term care facilities.

"From our perspective, the vaccine is going to be incredible. Until then, I think having this type of support in place for these facilities is crucial," added Klinepeter.

The RRHCP distributed $175 million in federal coronavirus aid to 11 regional health systems or health organizations to help them contain outbreaks in nursing homes.

More than 740,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Pennsylvania and more than 18,400 have died, including almost 10,000 in long-term care facilities, according to state data.

You can read more about RRHCP by clicking the link below.

Regio nal Response Health Collaborative (RRHC) Program The Regional Response Health Collaborative (RRHC) Program is a partnership between the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS), Department of Health (DOH), Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) and 10 Health Systems, including the Healthcare Council of Western Pennsylvania and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation.

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