The Joint Select Committee on the COVID-19 Pandemic heard testimony Wednesday on recommendations issued last week by the state’s nursing home task force.
State lawmakers spent about an hour questioning Henry Ford Health System’s Dr. Betty Chu, who co-chaired the nursing home task force, about the report.
Chu spoke on a range of issues — from testing supplies and personal protective equipment to the mental health of residents and staff — but spent most of her testimony responding to questions about where recovering COVID-19 patients should be housed.
She highlighted the report’s recommendation that, in some cases, recovering patients could spend more time in hospital beds.
Specifically, the report recommends that, “whenever possible, hospitals not discharge COVID-19-positive residents back to an originating nursing home if the patient has less than 72 hours remaining in the overall isolation period.”
But she also expects hospital capacity could be tested by a second surge of COVID cases this fall.
“We’re hopeful that we can continue normal operations through a second surge,” Chu said, speaking for Henry Ford. “And we do need to use those beds for our patients to service heart failure, and strokes, and other parts of the community that do not have COVID.”
The recommendations, submitted to Governor Gretchen Whitmer last week, include an affirmation of the state’s regional hub policy, which selected nursing homes that could isolate recovering COVID patients in separate wings.
The task force recommended extending that policy, but also that the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services select new hubs — or “Care and Recovery Centers,” as the report calls them — based on stricter criteria.
MDHHS is "addressing the recommendations on an ongoing basis" and will announce if they're adopted, according to spokesperson Lynn Sutfin.
The committee also noted the 13 recommendations that address quality of life for nursing home residents.
“I do want to thank the task force for focusing so much on mental health,” said Representative Julie Calley (R-Portland). “I believe the isolation that has happened during the last half year has been detrimental to both the residents and their loved ones.”
Some of the recommendations would allow more visits to nursing homes. Right now, limited visits are allowed for residents whose health is in serious condition — and who need help with activities like eating and washing.
MDHHS director Robert Gordon said changes to that policy would be announced this week.