State Rep. Bronna Kahle, of Adrian, today said while she’s glad the state’s nursing home task force recently outlined additional recommendations for residents, she continues to be disappointed Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has yet to implement necessary changes to better protect Michigan’s seniors.
To date, roughly one-third of Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths have been nursing home residents, while more than 35 percent of the state’s 199 current ongoing outbreaks have been attributed to long-term care facilities.
In June, amid growing concerns over the governor’s handling of nursing home policies throughout the pandemic, Gov. Whitmer established the Nursing Home Preparedness Task Force within the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to develop recommendations for an action plan on how to best prepare nursing homes for any future wave of COVID-19 cases.
The 20-member panel – which included members of the Whitmer administration, state lawmakers, industry leaders and a nursing home employee – released the final version of its report Tuesday. The document outlines 28 wide-ranging recommendations, which Kahle says underscores the need for changes to Whitmer’s COVID-19 nursing home policies.
Kahle, a former director of a senior center in Lenawee County, said it’s been clear from the beginning seniors are at more risk for the consequences of COVID-19. That’s why putting patients with coronavirus into these facilities makes no sense.
“Our seniors – who are our grandparents, parents, neighbors, and other loved ones – never should have been put at risk like this to begin with,” Kahle said. “Major changes to the governor’s nursing home mandate are clearly needed. I urge her to take the recommendations brought forth to her by her own task force seriously – our seniors depend on it.”
Final recommendations by the Nursing Home Preparedness Task Force include:
- Urging hospitals not to discharge COVID-positive residents back to nursing homes if they have less than 72 hours remaining in their isolation periods.
- Improving coordination of PPE distribution and allocation to ensure nursing homes are prioritized and properly stocked.
- Establishing “Care and Recovery Centers” across the state to help serve elderly people with COVID-19 in the event of a second wave. These centers would be determined based on the ability to meet state requirements, provide high quality care and engage in rigorous and consistent infection control protocols.
- Encouraging outdoor visits for residents in long-term care facilities to improve their quality of life. To minimize the effects of isolation on seniors, the task force recommended small-group activities, as well as more visitation opportunities for residents who may be struggling from a lack of social interaction.
- Addressing nursing home staffing shortages by creating a new certified nursing assistance (CNA) website to allow greater access to training programs and resources, as well as transparency for CNAs searching for employment.
A group of House Republican legislators today labeled the latest emergency order issued by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regarding indoor visitation in nursing homes as a step in the right direction, adding there is still more work to be done.
“The governor and the Legislature can and should work together – always – to protect lives and livelihoods during this pandemic,” said Kahle, of Adrian. “These measures approved by the House will keep people safer, protect our most vulnerable, and better connect every citizen with their elected leaders at every level of state and local government. It’s strong action toward the continued safe, sensible reopening of Lenawee County and the entire state.”