The Michigan Senate passed a bill June 24 that would allow patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to be transferred to dedicated facilities, starting Sept. 15, as opposed to being placed in nursing homes.
In a 24-13 vote, the Republican-controlled Senate approved Senate Bill 956 prohibiting nursing homes from caring for people who test positive for COVID-19 unless the individuals have recovered or the facilities have demonstrated they can properly provide the “necessary” care.
Under the legislation, Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services would be tasked with setting up dedicated facilities in each of the state’s eight health care regions, which would be designed for patients ineligible for admission into a hospital, nursing home, adult foster care facility, or another long-term care facility.
The measure also would require the Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate each regional hub’s operation and outcomes and report more details to the legislature by July 31, 2020.
Michigan State Senator Peter Lucido said the bill’s passing was of great importance because the state had seen too many elderly and vulnerable people dying from the disease.
“What happened this afternoon was the following, the Senate took a vote on Senate Bill 956 which allowed COVID patients, who are positive, not to be put in the nursing homes ever again with those who are non-COVID,” Lucido said.
“We needed this more than ever because of the following: We were having too many elderly, most vulnerable people to get the disease and die,” he added.
Senate Bill 956 is a rebuke of Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s previous executive order which allowed otherwise stable COVID-19 patients to be transferred to 21 nursing homes, which served as regional hubs, with residents who aren’t infected, so long as the COVID-19 patients were separated from elderly nursing home patients.
However, Whitmer’s policy drew criticism from numerous senate members for claimed it further exposed the elderly and already vulnerable population, many of which have pre-existing health conditions, to the virus. The Detroit News previously reported that nearly half of the nursing homes selected to serve as regional hubs had below-average quality ratings from the federal government.
The bill now heads to the House of Representatives and would need to pass the House and be signed by Whitmer to become law.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.1 million people live in nursing homes or residential care facilities, representing 0.6 percent of the U.S. population. Residents in these facilities account for 43 percent of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths, the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity estimated.
In Michigan, more than one-third, or 2,010, of the state’s deaths have been nursing home residents.