Coroner calls on nursing homes to report COVID-19 deaths

News

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) Timothy Rowland, the Lackawanna County Coroner, sent a letter to nursing homes requesting them to report deaths, or suspected deaths, caused by COVID-19 to his office. He says Act 154 of 2018 says coroners have a duty to investigate “a death known or suspected to be due to contagious disease and constituting a public hazard.”

Rowland told us, “I am asking the nursing, the skilled nursing facilities, to comply with Act 154 and notify me of the death of any contagious disease, such as COVID.”

This request to nursing homes comes shortly after a family requested him to do an autopsy on a family member, who was living at ‘The Jewish Home of Eastern Pennsylvania’ in Scranton.

“The family was concerned because somebody in the same room or the adjacent room had tested positive for COVID and died,” Rowland said.

Rowland says the home did not include that the cause of death for their family member was COVID- related on the death certificate. The family then asked the coroner’s office to do a COVID test, which, Rowland says, came out positive.

He says the Pennsylvania Department of Health requires nursing homes to report COVID-related deaths on the electronic death certificate filing, to speed up the reporting process.
After seeing this case, he does not believe that is happening.

“I mean don’t you think it’s unusual that we have at least 10 large skilled nursing home facilities and only one has reported one death since the start?” Rowland asked.

He says the overall numbers of deaths reported by the Pennsylvania Department of Health does not match up to his count.

“It was over maybe 30 yesterday… And I have over 46.”

Eyewitness News reached out to The Jewish Home of Eastern Pennsylvania for comment and has not heard back.

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