Governor vetoes Lucido’s bill prohibiting COVID-19 patients in nursing homes

By: Kara Szymanski | Shelby - Utica News | Published August 10, 2020

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SHELBY TOWNSHIP — A bill sponsored by Sen. Peter J. Lucido, R-Shelby Township, that would have prohibited the transfer of people who have COVID-19 into nursing homes and long-term care facilities was vetoed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer July 31.

Lucido said he was disappointed by the governor’s decision.

“I am very disappointed and saddened that the governor vetoed this extremely important and commonsense legislation. Politics should not prevail over the health and safety of our seniors and health care workers, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate and House to consider passing a veto override. We owe this to our citizens, especially the seniors and vulnerable members of our communities who cannot speak for themselves,” Lucido stated in a press release.

Lucido said that all of the states that had followed COVID-19 nursing home guidelines like that of the Whitmer administration have since changed course to a policy similar to what was included in his bill.

The bill, Senate Bill 956, would have prohibited individuals from being admitted or retained for care in a nursing home if they tested positive for COVID-19 and had not since recovered, unless the nursing home was able to provide a preapproved designated area and a program to demonstrate its ability to retain the individual in the facility and provide the safe, appropriate care necessary for the patient that was consistent with adequate supply, staffing and operational capacity at the facility at the time of the individual’s diagnosis — with the prior consent of Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

The bill would also have required MDHHS to develop and submit a plan to the House and Senate health policy committees describing its process to ensure there were dedicated facilities to provide care for COVID-19-positive patients in each of the eight health care regions. The dedicated facilities would have been intended for patients who were COVID-19 positive and ineligible for admission into a hospital, nursing home or adult foster care facility.

MDHHS would also have had to be required to evaluate the COVID-19 Regional Hubs that were previously implemented and operated during the state’s response to COVID-19 in nursing home facilities and provide a report to the House and Senate health policy committees on the evaluation.

According to the press release, several of the state’s nursing homes serving as regional hubs for COVID-19 patients received low-quality ratings as determined by a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services rating system.

More than 35% of the people who have died from COVID-19 in Michigan were patients from nursing homes, according to Lucido’s press release.

Whitmer said in a press release that the bill would have “jeopardized the health of Michigan’s nursing home residents and other COVID-19-positive patients.”

“Protecting the health and safety of nursing home residents and their staff continues to be a top priority for my administration. Senate Bill 956 is nothing more than a political game that would relocate vulnerable seniors without any requirement for consent, doctor’s approval, or notification to patients and their families. It’s time for the Republican legislature to get serious about protecting our most vulnerable and addressing the public health and economic crisis faced by our state. We look forward to continuing our work with stakeholders and legislators on the (Michigan Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force) to develop real solutions that make sense for Michigan seniors and their families,” she stated.

Whitmer’s press release states that the task force “is charged with, among other things, analyzing relevant data on the threat of COVID-19 in nursing homes, and making recommendations to the governor on improving data quality, and releasing periodic reports to the governor on its findings and recommendations.”

The task force is to give a report Aug. 31.