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July 15, 2020

Penn Medicine, Jefferson Health to help improve COVID-19 response in Pennsylvania nursing homes

Philly health systems among nine to join new statewide program

Senior Health COVID-19
Penn Medicine nursing home initiative Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Penn Medicine is among nine health systems being tapped to participate in a state program designed to improve the COVID-19 response in nursing homes.

The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services has tapped the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Thomas Jefferson University to help lead a $175 million statewide program to improve the COVID-19 response efforts in long-term residential care facilities.

The Regional Response Health Collaboration Program will distribute funding to nine academic health systems across the state to develop COVID-19 readiness and response planning in collaboration with local regulatory agencies and long-term care facilities.

Penn will be partnering with the Temple University Health System for its role in the program. Both were selected in March to participate in a precursor to the new program.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a disproportionate burden on the more than 2,000 personal care homes, assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities," said Dr. P.J. Brennan, Penn Medicine's chief medical officer. "Protecting our state's most at-risk residents is of vital importance and academic health systems are poised to lead that effort."

Penn Medicine and Jefferson University were awarded a combined $65.8 million to lead efforts in the state's southeast region. The program will focus on infection prevention, universal testing, contact tracing and education.

Long-term care residents are among the populations most vulnerable to COVID-19 because many are of advanced age and have pre-existing health conditions. Forty percent of COVID-19 deaths and 10% of confirmed cases nationwide have occurred in long-term care facilities.

"The Wolf Administration will continue to do all we can to support our long-term care providers during this pandemic and beyond," Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said.

"The Regional Response Health Collaboration Program will build on accomplishments thus far and be a resource to long-term care facilities as COVID-19 evolves. Through these collaboratives, long-term care facilities will have a network to learn, respond and prepare for what is ahead in the fight against COVID-19."

Penn Medicine began working with the Philadelphia Department of Pubic Health in April to address the needs of the residents and workers at city nursing homes during the public health crisis.

The health system has expanded testing and provided infection control consultation and personal protective equipment. It also have provided virtual palliative care and bereavement services for staff, patients and loved ones.

Other collaborators include the Philadelphia Department of Public Health, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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