Michigan legislature passes bill to stop Whitmer’s COVID-19 nursing home policy

Michigan legislature passes bill to stop Whitmer’s COVID-19 nursing home policy

Whitmer is expected to veto the bill, which now sits on her desk.

State lawmakers are fighting to keep COVID-19 patients out of Michigan nursing homes, and instead house COVID-positive patients in dedicated facilities.

The Michigan House of Representatives passed the nursing home bill on a 74-34 vote, including support from 17 Democrats. The Senate then concurred, meaning the bill will now head to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s desk.

Senate Bill 956 would go into effect Sept. 1, and bans nursing homes from admitting or retaining anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19 until after they have recovered – unless they can house those patients in a separate building. Otherwise, residents would need to be moved to “field hospitals” or to one of at least eight dedicated facilities (one per health care region in the state).

The state is currently under an executive order from Whitmer that allows nursing homes to house elderly COVID-19 patients in the same buildings as healthy residents, as long as they are placed in isolated areas.

More than 22,000 Michiganders signed Mighty Michigan’s petition opposing Whitmer’s nursing home policy.

State Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, said Whitmer’s policy of housing these patients with healthy residents has done “nothing other than increase the vulnerability of our elderly population.” He went on to say “While this is an issue that should have never occurred, the time is long overdue to correct this massive problem that the administration has created.”

Whitmer’s policy ignored the advice of the state’s leading nursing home association, which recommended that the state use empty facilities as quarantine centers for residents with the coronavirus in a March 13 letter.

President and CEO of the Health Care Association of Michigan Melissa Samuel said she did not know why the governor did not follow that recommendation. “I think it’s something that should have been explored,” she told the Detroit News. “Maybe they did do that, and it wasn’t shared with us.”

Whitmer is expected to veto the bill. But the House and Senate could override that veto with supermajority votes.

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