Whitmer vetoes bipartisan bill protecting nursing home residents from COVID-19

Whitmer vetoes bipartisan bill protecting nursing home residents from COVID-19

The governor doubled down on a policy that goes against recommendations from the state’s leading nursing home association.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on July 31 vetoed a bill that would keep COVID-19 patients out of Michigan nursing homes and instead house them in dedicated facilities.

Whitmer characterized the bill as “nothing more than a political game” in a statement – though 17 Democrats in the Michigan House of Representatives voted in favor of it. This follows Whitmer’s July 8 veto of a whistleblower protection bill that earned unanimous support in the House and Senate.

The vetoed bill, Senate Bill 956, would ban 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 throughout the state.

Whitmer’s veto means Michigan will continue to operate under her policy allowing nursing homes to house elderly COVID-19 patients in the same buildings as healthy residents, as long as they are placed in isolated areas.

This ignores 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 her organization’s 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.”

Lawmakers could override Whitmer’s veto with two-thirds support in the House and Senate.

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