By Jon King /

An order directed at Michigan’s nursing homes is prompting a local lawmaker to respond.

On Monday, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) Director Robert Gordon issued an order (posted below) requiring regular testing and timely and accurate reporting of cases, deaths, personal protective equipment and staffing shortages. Gordon said they took the time to make the report as accurate as possible and are doing everything in their power to protect nursing facility residents through mandatory testing, support for adequate staffing, and new efforts at infection control.

However, State Senator Lana Theis said it was too little too late. The Brighton Township Republican issued a statement pointing out that, “Over one-third of all COVID-19-related deaths in the state — and most of the deaths in Livingston and Washtenaw counties — occurred among patients from nursing homes” and that this, (quote) “incredible loss of life likely could have been mitigated had MDHHS not made the decision to bring COVID-19 patients into these facilities in the first place.”

Theis said she had called for a halt to the practice in an April 14th letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun and the Livingston County Health Department, adding that was before the first nursing-home-related executive order was issued. She says she has yet to receive a response. “Director Gordon’s order is too little too late, and of no consolation to the thousands of families of those residents who perished from the disease. COVID-19-positive patients shouldn’t have been placed in the same facility as our most vulnerable citizens, especially before the requirements in Director Gordon’s most recent order were possible. Frankly, this announcement only brings more questions, and the people of Michigan deserve answers they have been waiting months to receive: Why now, and why didn’t you protect them sooner?”

In response to Theis’ release, MDHHS Spokeswoman Lynn Sutfin gave this statement to WHMI; “ This is a difficult situation and it is wrong to pretend otherwise. With a limited supply of PPE for a limited number of residential options, the State used its best judgment to address a crisis situation. The tragic outcomes in Michigan are generally consistent with those in other states. Protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of our seniors and most vulnerable residents remains a top priority. We are actively working with those who are looking to improve safety with realistic approaches and real solutions. For most of this pandemic, testing supplies have been in short supply and needed to be prioritized for those exhibiting symptoms. More widespread testing is now available, allowing for enhanced testing in the state’s nursing facilities. Mandating this level of testing previously would have required nursing facilities to fulfill a requirement that could not be met. The order issued this week also ensures ongoing attention to infection prevention, which is critical to slowing and stopping the spread of the virus.”

Monday’s Order requires nursing facilities to conduct expanded COVID-19 testing for residents and staff. Nursing facilities are required to submit plans for testing by June 22nd and implement those plans by June 29th.