With 1/3 of COVID Deaths in Nursing Homes, Lawmakers Want to End Placing Positive Patients There
(Drew Saunders, June 18, 2020)
As part of the battle to defeat Covid-19, governments around the world are performing a juggling act with providing enough personal protective equipment, hospital beds, medical staff, money and where to put patients who are recovering from the disease.
It’s been widely known that nursing homes are particularly challenging during a pandemic, particularly COVID-19 which is worse for the elderly. Data recently released by the Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services says nearly 34% of deaths from COVID-19 have been in nursing facilities, as well as 12% of all cases. There have been 3,133 cases and 20 deaths among nursing facility staff. Across the county, one-third of all coronavirus deaths have been among nursing home residents or staff.
But what people may not realize is that the State of Michigan has been paying nursing homes to accept COVID-19 positive patients.
It’s a practice that Republican State Senator Peter Lucido is hoping to end. He and other legislators are working to pass a bill that would end the placing of positive patients in nursing homes with healthy residents. It would also put a stop to regional hubs like the one established at the Suburban Collection in Novi and the TCF Center in Detroit.
State Representative Kathy Crawford, a Republican representing District 38, held a press conference calling for more transparency and wanting to know how many people are getting sick in the nursing homes that are being used to house victims recovering from the disease.
“As far as I know, almost everybody is calling for more transparency. Democrats and Republicans have been asking for the information,” Crawford said.
“We’re getting crickets. She’s not listening,” Crawford added.
The alternative to nursing homes is a field hospital, one of which was set up in the Suburban Collection Showplace, in Novi, across Grand River Avenue from where the press conference was held. Crawford says that the planned 1,000 beds was reduced to 250 and even now they aren’t being fully utilized.
The President of the Suburban Collection declined comment, but the State did respond to Oakland County Times’ questions.
“The SCS Regional Care Center is available to accept Covid-19 patients that meet specific admission criteria and in adherence with the CDC guidelines for patient protocols,” Michelle Grinnelle, a spokeswoman for the state said in an email. The care center at the Suburban Collection is being run by Ascension Michigan according to Grinnelle, who added “The decision to transfer patients to the alternative care facility rests with the hospitals, using that determined admission criteria. It is also important to note this is a field hospital not meant to treat Covid-19 patients, and is not set up or designed to be a long-term care facility.”
Lynn Sutfin, a Public Information Officer at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Resources said that field hospitals had been considered for holding people recovering from Covid-19, but the state decided to focus more on filling beds in established facilities.
She said they did this over concerns that accessibility would be an issue, they wouldn’t be able to produce enough qualified staff, and they wouldn’t reasonably have enough access to the medical equipment that would be available at nursing homes.
Sutfin said that data has been provided through Lansing’s long term care page, which provides a list of what homes have accepted what number of people, organized by county. Taking into account, as the website itself does, that some of the patients are victims discharged from a hospital, Oakland County has or have had 1,041 recovering coronavirus victims in these facilities.
There are 715 such beds in nursing homes statewide according to Stufin; who added that they received $5,000 per bed and an additional $200 per day for every bed that is occupied. Stuffin also clarified that the number counts the total number of cases from each facility, and that an unspecified number of the patients have recovered since being counted.
“Some of those cases may have been hospitalized and transferred to the facility when they no longer needed hospital-level care, but still had the virus. They didn’t necessarily contract it in the facility. There is a note on the data page to the same effect: Some facilities have dedicated space to appropriately isolate and care for residents with Covid-19 and they may also be accepting individuals with Covid-19 that require nursing facility type care from the hospital,” Stuffin said.
Nursing homes currently report data on a voluntary basis, according to Crawford. She questioned the accuracy or frequency of the data submitted and called for more regulation.
Crawford was flanked Monday by State House members from Livingston, Macomb and Lenawee Counties, who all say that they haven’t received any data on who has gotten sick and who has died. They also have yet to get responses from their requests to get more information.