Responding to Capital-Star story, Pa. lawmaker calls for investigation of Erie nursing home

(Capital-Star photo by Hannah McDonald)

ERIE, Pa. — An area lawmaker, responding to news first reported by the Capital-Star, has called for an investigation of an Erie nursing home, where employees have charged that management wasn’t prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. 

State Rep. Patrick Harkins, D-Erie, said he’s sent letters to both Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Health Secretary Rachel Levine asking them for “immediate action” on the situation at Twinbrook Nursing Home.

“When we’re alerted to a situation like this,” Harkins told the Capital-Star on Tuesday, “we have to act.”

Twinbrook, a for-profit healthcare and rehabilitation center, is owned by Guardian Elder Care, based Brockway, Pa., and operates with 120 resident beds. The company operates 52 facilities in Pennsylvania, five in Ohio, and two in West Virginia.

Harkins sent the letters and texted the documents to Levine and Shapiro on Monday. He told the Capital-Star Tuesday that he’d received “confirmation from both that they had received them and that they were doing due diligence …  In the meantime, I received probably eight emails and texts from family members of patients at the home all expressing concern.”

Short on staff and supplies in a pandemic, Erie nursing home employees say they’re not getting the help they need

On April 3, the Capital-Star was the first to report that employees at Twinbrook said they were short on staff and supplies,” and charged that management was indifferent to their concerns.

Employees told the Capital-Star last week that residents were not receiving care in a timely manner. The employees also said they regularly run out of supplies  — everything from medicine to washcloths. “Sometimes we need to give residents baths with sheets,” one employee said.

The dispute over staffing and unmet needs came amidst Twinbrook employees’ attempts to unionize, which have since been put on hold in the wake of the health crisis. 

In January, Twinbrook failed to comply with a number of emergency preparedness requirements set forth by the Health Department.

They’re not evidently adhering to regulations, and it’s my job to see that the proper authorities are alerted to this to make sure that they are investigated, and that the proper authorities find out what’s actually going on at the facility,” Harkins told the Capital-Star. 

When the story first broke, Guardian Elder Care declined to comment to the Capital-Star.

On Monday, the company released a statement to Erie News Now

“The safety of our residents and employees is, and always has been, our top priority. We are focused on COVID-19 preparedness and are following all CDC, CMS and DOH guidance for health care facilities,” the statement reads. “Adequate supplies are in a location where caregivers have access. Our dedicated employees continue to pour their hearts and souls into caring for our residents during this unprecedented time.”