Allegheny County, PA – May 30, 2020 – Pennsylvania State Senator Pam Iovino (D – Allegheny & Washington), Minority Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, released the following statement today in response to the indefinite suspension of Southeastern Veterans’ Center Commandant, Rohan Blackwood, and Director of Nursing, Deborah Mullane, as well as today’s report by the Philadelphia Inquirer:

“The indefinite suspension of key leadership staff at the Southeastern Veterans’ Center is warranted, and while I agree with this action, I remain frustrated by the delayed timeline. For months, staff and family members of residents at Southeastern Veterans’ Center have been reporting concerns about insufficient protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and a management culture that was hostile to internal reports seeking improvements, all while deaths from COVID-19 soared.

“Today’s report by the Philadelphia Inquirer exposed alleged disturbing details of the misguided and incompetent leadership at Southeastern Veterans’ Center, and raised serious questions about the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs’ internal processes. Interim leadership at Southeastern Veterans’ Center inherited a serious situation and must immediately address the care issues by focusing on fixing the health protocols and stopping the spread of COVID-19 and the deaths. Going forward, sustained and focused legislative oversight will be aimed at rectifying the deeper-rooted systemic issues exposed within DMVA which led to this situation. We must do better for our veterans, their families, and staff that care deeply for and about them.”

These suspensions follow a May 6 Senate Democratic Policy Committee hearing, co-chaired by Senator Iovino and Senator Katie Muth (D – Berks, Chester & Montgomery), where Department of Military and Veterans Affairs leadership were asked about reports of insufficient protocols, hostile management, and the steps taken to protect residents and staff at the Southeastern Veterans’ Center and were urged to do more to prevent further infections and deaths.