Pa. Nursing Homes Mull Suit Over State's 'Flawed' Virus Data

By Y. Peter Kang
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Law360 (May 21, 2020, 9:43 PM EDT) -- An advocacy group for nursing homes in Pennsylvania threatened Thursday to take legal action against the state over a "flawed" report recently issued by the health department regarding COVID-19 infections at nursing homes.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Association said data released by the state's Department of Health on May 19, breaking down the number of patient and staff coronavirus infections and deaths at each individual facility statewide, "contained inconsistent and inaccurate information about many providers."

"The posted data simply did not match with providers' actual experiences with COVID-19," the group's president, Zach Shamberg, said in a statement. "We have advised the Department of Health that if it does not immediately take action to remove information it knows to be wrong, we will be forced to explore all options, including possible legal action in Commonwealth Court, to get truthful data posted as soon as possible."

The group, which represents more than 500 nursing homes in Pennsylvania, said the inaccurate data has sparked "panic and anger" from family members of patients and residents and has caused "distrust amongst staff and frustration for providers."

A spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Thursday.

State health officials have recorded 4,869 COVID-19-related deaths as of Thursday and said the majority of hospitalizations and deaths have occurred among people aged 65 and older. The health department said there have been more than 14,100 nursing home patients infected with the virus and approximately 2,300 workers who tested positive.

The nursing home group said Thursday that it has contacted health officials who have admitted the data was inaccurate.

"We have demanded that the flawed data be taken down from public view immediately and that accurate, verifiable data be posted," Shamberg said in the statement.

The group's demand was made two weeks after Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order giving health care professionals civil immunity for good faith treatment provided to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, the Democratic governor's order did not include a liability shield for nursing homes and long-term care facilities, which Shamberg said his group would try to rectify via state legislation.

"We will work with members of the General Assembly to ensure Pennsylvania's health care providers, especially those at the epicenter of this pandemic, receive the same protections already granted to providers in 13 other states across the country," he said in a May 6 statement.

--Additional reporting by Matthew Santoni. Editing by Daniel King.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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