Legislators Highlight Issues w/ Governor’s Nursing Home Policy
June 9, 2020
By Jessica Mathews/News@whmi.com
A local lawmaker joined a group of House Republican legislators and others to detail what they say are the failures of Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s controversial policy that has placed contagious COVID-19-positive patients into the state’s nursing homes.
A press conference was held Monday morning at Paradise Park in Novi, across from the Suburban Collection Showplace, which continues as a COVID-19 field hospital. Lawmakers were joined by representatives from a medical lab facility, health care organizations and constituents. The coalition called for the Whitmer administration to release information about the decision after weeks of stalling by state officials, improve current conditions, and utilize field hospitals, hotels and other infrastructure that can be retrofitted to care for COVID-19 patients in need of skilled nursing care. Patients continue to be mixed in some long-term care facilities.
Republican State Representative Ann Bollin of Brighton Township took part in the event. She said it’s not about politics and the state needs to leverage resources and put people and principals first. Bollin added a lot has been learned since the beginning of COVID-19 but patients are still being placed and mixed into the most vulnerable populations. Bollin said the state has field hospitals that sit empty and have professionals in infection control and that’s where she feels patients should be placed.
Joining lawmakers at the event were representatives from a Novi medical laboratory, who were said to have shared frustrations with the lack of state testing procedures for nursing home residents and staff; a local healthcare worker, who spoke about the effectiveness of isolation protocols for nursing home residents displaying symptoms of COVID-19 prior to testing and after; a family member of a current nursing home resident who shared her experiences with how the policy has affected seniors without COVID-19; and a local business owner who outlined the struggles to find adequate supplies of PPE equipment for employees.
A press release states to date, at least a quarter of the state’s coronavirus deaths – more than 1,600 – have been nursing home residents. According to cumulative data collected by the federal Centers for Services, Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in total nursing home deaths.
The release says State Rep. Kathy Crawford of Novi, who chairs the House Families, Children and Seniors Committee and has over 30 years of professional experience in the field of aging services, said the governor’s order to force nursing homes to house COVID-19 patients wasn’t just a mistake – but a fatal error in judgement. Crawford commented “The governor knew better. She knew long before COVID-19 made its way into Michigan that our state’s elderly – especially those with underlying health conditions – were most susceptible to serious complications of the deadly virus. “The nursing home protocols the administration implemented are irresponsible, negligent and reckless. The people put in harm’s way by this policy are not expendable. These are grandmothers, grandfathers, moms, dads, brothers and sisters who are being put in danger. We are better than this, and we have to better than this. It’s time the governor prioritizes the health and safety of all Michiganders and looks for a better alternative.”
Rep. Ryan Berman of Commerce Township detailed how long-term care facilities are not equipped to handle an influx of COVID-19 patients, citing minimal staffing levels and lack of PPE equipment and testing capabilities at the height of the pandemic. He commented “Nursing homes and other long-term care facilities were not at the top of the governor’s priority list to receive PPE, other life-saving equipment and testing to combat COVID-19. The governor knew a minimal supply of resources would be available in Michigan’s nursing homes, yet felt it was necessary to place COVID-19 patients in the same facilities as healthy residents and caregivers. This was a recipe for disaster from the very beginning and only time will tell how many families have been tragically hurt by the governor’s decisions. The people of Michigan deserve answers.”
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin provided the following response to WHMI:
"The Regional COVID-19 Hubs have only been serving patients for a little more than a month. At this time we do not have enough data to assess their effectiveness. Data reported to CMS were not accurate and are not a basis for forming conclusions. MDHHS is currently in the process of reaching out to each of Michigan’s nursing facilities individually by telephone to manually verify their cumulative data on cases and deaths. We will share the results of that reporting by the end of this week. With a limited number of residential options available, MDHHS formulated a policy geared around providing infection control for nursing facility residents. We continue to assess the policy’s effectiveness and to consider improvements, working with skilled nursing facilities, our state partners, local health departments, and the Legislature".