Michigan Gov. Whitmer stands by COVID nursing home policy amid threats of legal action

Michigan AG looking into requests to investigate policy

Gov. Whitmer stands by nursing home policy amid threats of legal action

LANSING, Mich.Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has faced criticism over a nursing home policy that her administration put in place in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Initially, patients who tested positive for COVID were placed in the same facility with patients who did not have COVID. Whitmer ended that practice after the first six months of the pandemic.

There is growing scrutiny over the policy with the prospect of lawsuits and other legal action. Whitmer said she remains proud of her team’s overall response to the coronavirus.

READ: Michigan AG looks into requests to investigate state nursing home policy

Whitmer’s policy differed from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo because Whitmer didn’t force COVID-positive patients to reside with COVID-negative patients. Instead, Whitmer incentivized the process by paying homes to take patients who had contracted COVID-19.

The most current count puts the long-term care death count at 5,537 in Michigan, which is more than 35 percent of all of the state’s COVID deaths.

When Cuomo came under fire for allegedly underreporting the number of seniors sent from nursing homes who died in hospitals, Local 4 filed a freedom of information request to look into Michigan’s numbers. There aren’t any.

READ: Daughter shares the struggle she faced while her elderly mother was in a care center during COVID-19 pandemic

The request was returned with a denial of data, saying, “there are no records of the location of death collected.”

“I’m proud of the work that we did. We can parse through different angles of statistics and compare ourselves with other states but ... I think that it sometimes can be a fool’s errand because the way that we are congregating data varies from state to state,” Whitmer said. “When there’s never a national strategy, (it’s) hard to really compare apples to apples.”

Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido is expected to announce an effort to prosecute Whitmer for her nursing home policy.

The Department of Health and Human Services sent an update saying that nursing home patients who were transferred to the hospital and then died would be counted as a nursing home death -- if they had not been discharged from the care facility.

READ: Coronavirus death toll at neighboring care facilities in Metro Detroit may be worst in US

Report: Michigan’s COVID-19 nursing home ‘hub’ plan was ‘logical and appropriate’ response

Last year, a report found that Michigan’s plan to create “hubs” for nursing home residents with COVID-19 was “logical and appropriate,” and found no significant evidence of transmission of the virus between patients and residents.

The report, released by the Center for Health and Research Transformation (CHRT), evaluated the state’s regional nursing home hub strategy, comparing the approach to outcomes in other states. CHRT is a University of Michigan affiliated nonprofit.

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About the Authors:

Rod Meloni is an Emmy Award-winning Business Editor on Local 4 News and a Certified Financial Planner™ Professional.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.