House Republicans on Monday asked Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to rescind her policy that requires recovering COVID-19 patients to be placed in isolated parts of designated nursing homes.
“Nursing homes have the very frailest of our population,” Rep. Kathy Crawford, R-Novi, told The Center Square. “Very many of them are bedridden. Nursing homes don’t have enough staff to take care of the daily needs of people who are in nursing homes.”
Crawford said she’d prefer Whitmer send recovering patients to field hospitals or hotels.
“Why would we send COVID-19 patients of all ages into nursing homes to recover when we have a field hospital that we set up and pay [about] $1.2 million a month for, and we don’t send them there for recovery?”, she asked.
Whitmer’s plan started at a time when hospitals were pressed for capacity.
The lawmakers held a press conference in Novi across from Suburban Collection Showplace, a 250-bed facility that Crawford said has only held 10 patients since March.
State Rep. Bronna Kahle of Adrian called Whitmer’s plan “irresponsible.”
Kahle added: “Tragically, the bad policy forced on nursing homes was fatal for many of the most vulnerable members of our communities.”
Preliminary data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reported 2,297 COVID-19 related deaths and 4,584 cases as of May 31.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) spokesperson Lynn Suftin said as of June 4 it reported 1,505 COVID-19 deaths and 5,600 cases related to nursing homes.
“We have reached out to CMS to discuss the differences in the data posted by our agencies in an effort to gain a better understanding of the information we both have collected,” Suftin wrote in an email.
Suftin said the state’s data is likely more accurate because it has posted more recent data and because facilities might be correcting data submitted to CMS, while MDHHS is reaching out to facilities to ensure accurate data.
The Detroit Free Press reported at least two nursing homes said federal data didn’t accurately represent its COVID-19 numbers.
Suftin said MDHHS decided against housing COVID-19 patients in field hospitals such as TCF Center in Detroit because they were designed for short-term care, not for vulnerable citizens.
For example, Suftin said field hospitals weren’t accessible to residents who need handrails to walk, they weren’t equipped with proper medical equipment such as x-ray machines or CT scanners, and didn’t have proper staffing for long-term care.
COVID-19 regional hubs established units for COVID-19 patients that are staffed appropriately, Suftin said, which are vetted for their performance history.
According to the department, those facilities received $5,000 per approved bed plus an additional $200 per day for occupied beds.
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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.