Task force recommends Whitmer continue nursing home coronavirus hubs

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer(source: State of Michigan)
Published: Sep. 1, 2020 at 4:17 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - A task force appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is recommending she continue a controversial program of transferring coronvirus patients into nursing home hubs around the state with some changes.

The Michigan Nursing Homes COVID-19 Preparedness Task Force issued its final report Tuesday.

The task force referenced a study by the Center for Health and Research Transformation, which found no significant evidence that the hub program -- which sometimes involves sending coronavirus patients to nursing homes with no positive cases of the illness -- led to residents of the facilities getting sick.

The study, which was funded by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund, found rates of nursing home residents contracting COVID-19 correlate with the counties in which they are located, including at facilities designated as hubs. Positive coronavirus test rates in nursing homes also corresponded with staff infection rates, according to the study.

Whitmer created the nursing home regional hub system with an order in April. It involves bringing coronavirus patients from hospitals into nursing homes with standalone spaces specially outfitted to deal with COVID-19.

Some nursing home residents with coronavirus, who cannot receive adequate care at their facility, also can be transferred to a regional hub while they recover.

Republicans have blasted the hub system for introducing coronavirus into nursing homes and long-term care facilities where the illness is not present, which potentially exposes their residents to the illness unnecessarily.

Other recommendations from the nursing home task force include:

  • Working with hospitals on excess surge capacity.
  • Improving coordination of personal protective equipment distribution and allocation.
  • Continuing regular coronavirus testing for nursing home residents.
  • Looking into dedicated coronavirus treatment facilities or alternative care sites.
  • Improving physical and mental health offerings for staff.
  • Increasing opportunities for nursing home visitation safely.

Whitmer said she will carefully review the task force’s 23-page report before considering any policy changes.

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