In this update:
The latest on the data breach that impacted 76,000 victims, plus delays in licensing affecting surgical centers
During this week’s Senate Appropriations Committee public hearings on Gov. Tom Wolf’s 2022-23 state budget proposal, I had the opportunity to ask several questions about how your tax dollars are spent in Harrisburg.
I had a discussion with the Acting Secretary of the Department of Health about the data breach within the state’s third-party vendor paid to conduct COVID-19 contact tracing for adults and children across Pennsylvania. You can watch our discussion below.
We also discussed challenges when it comes to licensing procedures at ambulatory surgical centers. These centers were pivotal during COVID-19 when many other health systems were forced to postpone certain procedures. You can watch our exchange below.
State’s ongoing delays in approving education programs to meet need of private sector reviewed
During Wednesday’s hearing with the Department of State, I asked the acting secretary about the governor’s constant press releases touting workforce development (he’s issued 17 news releases since the start of the year referencing “workforce development”). However, when you hear challenges in our community getting students into the workforce, there is a major failure within the bureaucracy.
I cited several examples of areas of higher education that work with the health care provider community to address needs they have in our health care systems and create programs in that specific field. Locally, York College has seen delays in approval for programs that WellSpan has requested for up to two years.
The Department of State oversees the State Board of Nursing, which as you can see in the video below, has not been swift to respond to the needs in our community.
Reviewing cyberattacks on school districts, substitute teacher and school bus driver shortages with Department of Education
During Thursday’s Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearing with the Department of Education, I reviewed several issues raised by our local education community.
First, as the chair of the Senate Communications and Technology Committee, we discussed the rise in cyberattacks on school districts.
Secretary Ortega and I also spoke about the substitute teacher shortage, as well as legislation I sponsored in the Senate to address this challenge many local districts currently face.
Finally, we talked about solutions to our school bus driver shortage.
Is the Wolf Administration forcing hospitals to unionize?
The Department of Human Services leadership team was before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday where I outlined my very serious concern about an effort underway that could force the unionization of every health system in the state. You can learn more about the issue in the video below.
We also discussed concerns over a regulation that forces every child to see a pediatrician before returning to a daycare facility or center after COVID-19.
I then followed up with my question on why the Department of Human Services was not immediately informed that COVID-19 had been placed on the list of communicable diseases by its sister agency – the Department of Health.
Touring York Salvation Army
Thank you to the team at the Salvation Army of York the informative tour of your facility. I met with Reverend Bonnie Camarda, who serves as the Director of Partnership for the Salvation Army of Eastern Pennsylvania & Delaware, and Major Tom Babbitt, who serves as our area’s leader, to learn more about their afterschool program that serves our local families and school districts.
They provide several activities to local youth, including sports, mentorship, tutoring and more.
We are grateful for the leadership at the Salvation Army to provide the much-needed service to our community. You can learn more here.
New report on PA COVID-19 hospitalization and mortality
The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council has released a new report on COVID-19 hospitalization and mortality over the first 16 months of the health emergency.
From March 1, 2020, through June 30, 2021, there were 120,329 COVID-19 hospitalizations in Pennsylvania hospitals. Pennsylvania residents were hospitalized at a rate of 91.5 hospitalizations per 10,000 residents. More than half of these admissions occurred from November 2020 through February 2021. There were peaks in admissions in April 2020 (8,391), December 2020 (24,506) and April 2021 (10,641).
While in the hospital, 10.2% of the patients required mechanical ventilation and 12.3% of patients died, while 14.9% were readmitted within 30 days. The average length of stay was 8.1 days. Older residents consistently had higher hospitalization and in-hospital mortality rates. You can read the findings at www.phc4.org.
REMINDER: Sign up for my special email updates for veterans
If you or someone you know is a veteran, please sign up for my VETERANS EMAIL UPDATE. I will send my first update out on Tuesday, March 15.
If you or someone you know is interested in receiving these veteran-specific updates directly in their inbox, please sign up here. Please forward this to any family member or friend who served our nation.
Resources to help with problem gambling
March is National Problem Gambling Awareness Month, and resources are available to help with a gambling addiction.
The Council operates the Pennsylvania Problem Gambling helpline, 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537). More resources, including a 24-hour chat service, are also available at www.pacouncil.com.
Spring forward this weekend
Daylight saving time will begin on Sunday, March 13, at 2 a.m., so it’s time again to turn clocks ahead one hour Saturday night.
This is also a good time to check batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms. These alarms should also be replaced every 10 years.
Daylight saving time will end on Nov. 6. Stay tuned for my next survey on this topic, as twice a year – when we “spring forward” and “fall back” – I hear a lot of complaints on the issue.
Upcoming PennDOT scheduled maintenance
PennDOT shared with me the upcoming maintenance project list for next week. You can view that below.
The Senate Appropriations Committee will convene on Tuesday, March 15, at 10 a.m. for its fourth and final week of state budget hearings. You can always tune in live on my Facebook Page. Catch up on all of my questions at these public hearings here. And listen to my latest podcast episode, featuring Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne, here.