Virtual lobby day May 7, 2020

Barbara White, Pittsburgh HRC

Put People First! PA is dedicated to achieving a Public Healthcare Advocate Office at the state level for Pennsylvania residents. Especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, this office would focus on advocating for patient-residents as a class in legislative, policy and regulatory processes. It would develop, in conjunction with a Community Advisory Board, public outreach and engagement strategies such as know-your-rights training and education about the virus transmission. It would support lawmakers by collecting and sharing information or conducting hearings about the healthcare system. It would make referrals to existing agencies for those who have recently lost jobs and healthcare, or provide direct assistance for those whose healthcare needs are not met – including people in rural areas, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, immigrant communities and unhoused people, all seriously impacted by the Coronavirus.

On May 7, 2020 from noon – 1 pm, we held our second virtual lobby day during the Covid-19 pandemic on the topic of how an Office of Public Healthcare Advocate can help the Commonwealth respond to the Covid-19 pandemic by raising the voices of the most impacted people in the state around important issues:

  • Reopen closed hospitals in response to public need for care and testing during the pandemic.
  • Advocate for Personal Protective Equipment, training and support for nursing home caretakers, in order to take better care of nursing home residents, who have died in high numbers in some nursing homes. Residents of nursing homes in PA have made up 10,010 of 51,845 total cases as of May 6, 2020.
  • Funding and access for dignified and adequate testing, especially in poor communities where hospitals have been closed or people do not have medical facilities or transportation to get to testing facilities outside their communities. We need to explore all options: testing at Federally Qualified Health Centers, mobile testing, etc.

Ed Gainey, State Representative for District 24, who supports our proposal for a PHA, discussed the problems we’re seeing now because we invest more in public safety than in public health. Pennsylvania has one of the lowest investments in public health, per capita, in the country. If we invested in public health, we could see healthier communities, less expenditure on incarceration and greater public safety. 

Several other legislators attended or sent staff support to listen or share information or ask questions. Senator Scott Martin’s HHS liaison, Marc Pugliese, participated, as did Rep. Matthew Bradford’s legislative assistant, Ronni Burkhart. We also heard from Emily Kinkead who is running for office in the District 20 primary.

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