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Senate expected to vote on nursing home bill Wednesday despite lingering concerns

Sen. Curtis Hertel Jr.

The state Senate is expected to vote on Wednesday on a bill that some say would further protect residents in skilled nursing facilities from COVID-19. 

Introduced by Senator Peter Lucido (R-Shelby Charter Township), the billwould require that the state establish facilities for the exclusive care of nursing home residents recovering from COVID-19. It charges the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services with deciding how the state would go about finding or building these facilities. 

Under the bill, by July 31, MDHHS would have to submit an evaluation of its current regional hub policy to the state Senate and House committees on health policy; by August 15, the department would have to submit its strategy for locating the special facilities.


The goal would be for these facilities — one for each of the state's eight health care regions — to start accepting patients by September 15. 


In a Senate health policy committee hearing on Tuesday, Democratic members said there were pieces of the bill they had trouble understanding.


Senator Curtis Hertel Jr. (D-East Lansing) asked for information on what would happen to COVID-19-positive nursing home residents whose facilities had enough staff, personal protective equipment, and infection controls in place to safely care for them. 


Later, a revised version of the bill clarified that if a “nursing home is able to provide a designated area” and “provide the appropriate care necessary for the individual,” it could admit patients with COVID-19. 


Senator Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids) wanted to know how operators of the new facilities would manage the risk of staff accidentally bringing the virus to work with them, noting that the bill “does not really address that overtly in any language at all.” 


Committee chairman Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington) said he believed the proposed MDHHS plan due August 15 would address that issue. 


Michigan’s current policy for nursing home residents places patients with and without COVID-19 in the same facilities (so-called regional hubs), but in separate units. By establishing entirely separate facilities, Lucido’s bill would effectively replace that policy. 

Will Callan, a reporter for Michigan Radio, hails from the Bay Area, where he lived in Oakland and San Francisco and reported for local newspapers and magazines. He enjoys a long swim in chilly water (preferably followed by a sauna) and getting to know new cities. That's one reason he's excited to be in Ann Arbor, which he can already tell has just the right combo of urban grit and natural beauty to make him feel at home.