LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s contested executive order concerning nursing homes and the coronavirus (COVID-19) expires Wednesday night, and she signaled that she’s considering a major change to the current policy.
Her policy is under heavy legislative scrutiny.
When the governor ordered COVID-19 positive seniors to recover in nursing homes where there were patients who tested negative, medical officials told the Senate Oversight Committee there was chaos and confusion.
The order said those patients would be separated with ramped-up care and heightened levels of personal protective equipment, but testimony showed in many cases, that didn’t happen.
Officials said there was a mad scramble inside Michigan’s nursing homes and the regional hubs where the COVID-19 positive patients went.
First, they had to compete for PPE with the TCF Medical Center that opened but never took any recovering nursing home patients before closing.
Then, when homes installed walls for separation, fire marshals ordered their removal.
“To have our fire marshals operating in accordance with the law, but in a scenario that prohibits us from being able to protect our most vulnerable is absolutely unconscionable,” oversight committee member Sen. Lana Theis said.
Melissa Samuel, of the Health Care Association of Michigan, said while the order said patients must be sent to nursing homes, the execution didn’t go as planned.
“The minute it was issued, we were out of compliance, and I had said, ‘What do we tell our members?’ It was just to sort of stand down,” Samuel said.
“There have been no forced admissions,” Democratic Sen. Jeff Irwin said. “There have been no mandates from the state that the nursing homes must take COVID-19 positive patients.”
Instead, the state gave homes $5,000 per patient.
Sen. Pete Lucido is demanding a criminal investigation.
“If they would have just taken restrictive measures and put the seniors in their own facility, we would not be talking right now,” Lucido said.
The oversight committee is anxious to see what Whitmer does with the new nursing home order. Members are still looking for solid numbers on how many Michiganders died in nursing homes. They intend to hold another hearing next week with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.