Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel says her office might bring charges against long-term care facilities that don’t follow an executive order designed to protect residents and staff.
“Willful violations of this executive order are considered a misdemeanor offense, which carry a $500 fine and/or 90 days in jail,” read a Thursday press release.
Nessel says a “willful” violation might be failing to separate sick residents from healthy ones.
“I don’t know at this point why any licensed facility would not know and understand why that’s a problem," she said in an interview.
The executive order is an update to an order originally issued in April that was directed at long-term care facilities. Those include nursing homes, whose residents account for 31% of the state's deaths from COVID-19.
The order requires long-term care facilities (nursing homes, adult foster care facilities, homes for the aged, and other assisted living facilities) to provide staff with adequate personal protective equipment; notify staff of new COVID-19 cases; notify a resident’s representatives if they’re going to be discharged; and take other measures to protect residents and staff.
Alison Hirschel, managing attorney for the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative, says she’s heard that workers and management at some facilities are not following these rules and acting as though COVID-19 were no longer a threat.
“If those things are going on we really encourage people to contact the Attorney General’s office because I think the Attorney General is very sincere in wanting to help and nip those practices in the bud,” Hirschel said.
Nessel says her office must receive a formal complaint to investigate, but that so far, they’ve only received 10 that pertain to the executive order.
“You have to make a complaint with my office,” she said. “Like, don’t post this on Twitter. That’s not the most effective way to ensure compliance.”
Complaints are investigated by the office's heatlh care fraud division, which receives 75% of its funding from a grant administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
People can lodge a complaint either by calling 1-800-24-ABUSE (800-242-2873) or going to mi.gov/agcomplaints.