Michigan’s House of Representatives passed a bill on Wednesday that seeks to establish entirely separate facilities for nursing home residents with COVID-19.
The state Senate has already voted in favor of the bill.
If that chamber accepts the version passed today by the House, the bill will go to Governor Gretchen Whitmer for a decision.
Representative Leslie Love (D-Detroit) spoke against the bill, which is sponsored by Senator Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Charter Township).
Love called it “faulty.” She said it set “impossible” goals for Michigan’s health department, which would be required to identify, by September 1, a facility for recovering COVID-19 patients in each of the state’s eight health care regions.
She said it wasn’t ready to be passed.
“This bill is a reaction of emotion,” Love said. “It’s emotional. It’s irresponsible. It’s a hurry to the deadline to say, ‘I did something.’”
Love, whose mother was a resident at one of the state’s regional hubs — nursing facilities with isolation units for patients who have COVID-19 — said she’s working with other lawmakers on her own legislation designed to protect vulnerable nursing home residents.
Republican representatives spoke in favor of the bill, and took the opportunity to criticize Governor Whitmer’s regional hub policy.
“To put COVID-positive patients in with our most vulnerable — it’s wrong, it’s dead wrong to do that,” said Representative Hank Vaupel (R-Fowlerville).
Vaupel chairs the House’s health policy committee. In a Tuesday hearing that examined Lucido’s bill, he and other committee members heard testimony from Alison Hirschel, who’s managing attorney at the Michigan Elder Justice Initiative.
She said that while the folks at her organization are “deeply appreciative of the Legislature’s concern for nursing home residents,” they can’t support the bill without more information about how these new facilities would be staffed, and how frail residents would be protected during the potentially traumatic transfer from one facility to another.
She also commented on Governor Whitmer’s regional hub policy.
“I wonder if we know how well that worked or didn’t work,” said Hirschel. “I think it’s worth it to analyze that model, and see if with, perhaps, changes to the requirements and significant oversight by MDHHS (the state health department) and LARA (the state department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs)— can that model still keep residents and staff safe?”
In late June, Governor Whitmer created a nursing home task force that might approach that analysis.
Among its responsibilities, the task force must recommend “an action plan on how to prepare nursing homes for any future wave of COVID-19 cases" by August 31.