Pennsylvania is transitioning from the Regional Response Health Collaboration Program to the Long-Term Care Task Force that includes Regional Congregate Care Assistance Teams to continue supporting long-term care facilities battling COVID-19. The Wolf Administration also urged Congress and the incoming Biden Administration to resume greater support to state and local governments to assist LTCFs throughout the public health crisis.
“After nearly 10 months since the first positive cases were identified in Pennsylvania, our understanding of and experience with this virus has evolved greatly,” said Department of Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller. “COVID-19 in long-term care facilities is closely tied to rates of community spread, and constant vigilance, diligent preparation and quick, nimble response dictates the extent of an outbreak in a facility and the number of people affected. The Wolf Administration is committed to supporting long-term care facilities, and the RCAT will allow us to continue this support as we are able while we also look toward Congress and the incoming administration for the support we need to resume a more robust program.”
The RRHC program was a $175 million project authorized by the General Assembly funded through the federal CARES Act funds through the Pennsylvania LTCTF. It provided clinical, operational and administrative support to protect residents in LTCFs from COVID-19. This effort was a collaboration between the Department of Human Services, the Department of Health and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency. Federal funding for the RRHC program ended Dec. 30.
The RRHC program provided clinical assessment and consultation, personal protective equipment, rapid response staffing and testing support, and training and education for COVID-19 in LTCFs. With its conclusion at the end of 2020, DOH, DHS and PEMA have worked together to identify how to continue supporting LTCFs in COVID-19 response.
In 2021, 10 health systems that previously participated in the RRHC will continue to assist with rapid response when an outbreak is identified at a LTCF under the RCAT. Certain other functions of the RRHC will be managed by the LTCTF, which is comprised of the following contractors: Maxim Healthcare Staffing, Curative Labs, Inc., General Healthcare Resources and RCATs.
The Wolf Administration executed agreements with the RCATs to provide long-term care response in Pennsylvania. Agreements for RCATs and staffing totaled $12 million for the months of January and February 2021. Additional agreements were executed with GHR, Maxim and Emergency Care Research Institutes for continued long-term care response. Curative’s agreement with DOH provides $28.5 million for testing support to LTCFs. The deployment of these resources will be based on assessments by RCATs, with subsequent approval by the LTCTF.
“The vital work to protect our most vulnerable citizens and those who care for them is ongoing, and this transition will enable us to continue supporting these facilities over the coming months,” said PEMA director Randy Padfield. “Coordination among multiple state agencies will enable us to quickly provide assistance when and where it’s needed.”
The following continued support will be offered to RCAT-eligible facilities:
– Call centers previously utilized under the RRHC program will remain available for eligible facilities to engage participating health systems for infection control/prevention services and education in the event of COVID-19 outbreaks
– Rapid response will continue through onsite assessment teams assisting with infection control practices, identifying staffing needs, specimen collection and training needs
– Staffing assistance will continue to be provided by contracted agencies, as well as the PA National Guard, but will be more limited
– Testing assistance is available as resources permit through the DOH vendors; facilities experiencing a current outbreak or support from a RRHC or DOH vendor will be enrolled in testing support first, and then the program will expand based on availability of resources
– The Jewish Healthcare Foundation’s Tomorrow’s Healthcare portal will still be accessible; webinars will be scheduled as needed
“The RRHC program has been instrumental in our statewide response to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including aiding our frontline healthcare workers who provide care and testing to COVID-19 patients in long-term care facilities,” said Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. “During the transition over to the RCATs, General Healthcare Resources and Maxim will serve as staffing support resources in long-term care facilities. Once fully operational, the RCATs will work closely with Curative testing, GHR and Maxim staff. These teams will further assist with the critical efforts to protect our long-term care residents from COVID-19.”
Maxim has provided 24-hour clinical surge staffing in urban and rural licensed congregate care facilities across the commonwealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. They maintain a constant pool of candidates to respond and scale with limited notice. Clinical staff that will be available include, but will not be limited to, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified nursing assistants and psychiatric aides. Each staffing support assignment to a facility is estimated to last three to five days.
Curative provides an end-to-end testing solution for COVID-19. The simple-to-use oral fluid test is self-administered under the supervision of facility staff. The test is painless and has clinical accuracy of approximately 90 percent and 100 percent specificity. For those with dry mouth or dentures that could prevent an oral test, a shallow nasal test can be performed. Curative’s test has been validated and is being offered during the pandemic under an Emergency Use Authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It is labeled with specific warnings, precautions and limitations that FDA reiterated in its Safety Communication on Jan. 4.
Curative provides training and support to facilities on supervising the test and use of the integrated software systems. Facilities will be added in a phased approach, and each facility will receive kits to include, at a minimum, a specimen tube, biohazard bag, oral or nasal canular swab, vial with label, absorbent pad and shelf stable medium. Facilities will also receive pre-paid shipping labels and packaging, including laboratory grade boxes, to send specimens to the lab using next-day shipping.
Samples require no refrigeration and are stable up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Reasonable turnaround times will allow facilities to take appropriate action based on results. Curative will bill the payor, and the commonwealth will serve as the payor of last resort.