HARRISBURG – Rep. Tarah Toohil (R-Luzerne) was troubled to learn the Pennsylvania Department of Aging took action to block the release of documents to a federally empaneled grand jury looking into an unusually high rate of COVID-19 related deaths at a nursing home in western Pennsylvania. The revelation from Secretary of Aging Robert Torres came to light during state budget hearings conducted by the House Appropriations Committee currently underway in Harrisburg.
Press reports indicate the department recently filed a motion to quash a subpoena requesting documents on complaints or investigations at Brighton Rehabilitation and Wellness Center in Beaver County, which is the subject of a federal grand jury probe and several lawsuits on behalf of current and former Brighton residents.
“This action by the Department of Aging is simply appalling,” said Toohil. “There are significant concerns related to the Wolf administration’s COVID-19 policies for nursing homes statewide. Secretary Torres is the Commonwealth’s top advocate for seniors, but yet, his department is unwilling to release information related to their care during the pandemic.”
The exchange during the budget hearing between Torres and Rep. John Lawrence (R-Chester/Lancaster) was as follows:
“You are not protecting seniors when your department files a court motion to quash [this] subpoena. Your department is on the record now to block this investigation,” said Lawrence, adding that Torres “report[s] to the governor. I see you standing in the way of a federal investigation into what happened at a nursing home under supervision of a state appointed manager. Have you spoken to the governor about this?”
“No sir,” replied Torres.
An incredulous Lawrence replied, “Are you asking me to believe that the governor and his secretary of Aging haven’t talked about this situation? A nursing home under federal investigation with one of the highest COVID death rates in the nation?”
“I’ve discussed it with our counsel, that’s who I’ve discussed it with,” replied Torres.
To view or download a broadcast-quality video of the exchange, click here
Representative Tarah Toohil
116th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office