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Fallout in Lansing after nursing home death audit

A report from the state’s nonpartisan Office of the Auditor General says that an additional 2,386 people died in Michigan nursing homes while a controversial Executive Order was in effect in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The document was first leaked mid-month and is already causing fallout.

State Senator Ed McBroom is head of the Oversight Committee, which has been looking into this issue for nearly a year and a half. The policy in question was not unique to Michigan. It mandated that COVID positive elderly patients be shipped back to nursing home facilities to free up space in hospitals for an expected surge among younger and healthier demographics, something that never materialized in the way officials feared. That allowed the disease to spread quickly and out of control amongst the most vulnerable segment of the population.

McBroom says the Auditor General is responsible for oversight on a range of issues, not an expert of public health matters, and representatives from Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services are strident in their denials of the new figures.

The Department of Health and Human Services vehemently disputes these numbers and totals…very strongly disagrees with them.

At least one Republican in the state House is using the word impeachment. Steve Carra of Three Rivers is currently transitioning into a campaign for United States Congress. He issued a statement on Monday, addressed to Michigan’s Speaker of the House. “I submitted a request to Speaker Jason Wentworth’s office to form an investigative committee after reading the shocking report from the independent Auditor General’s office that documented the Whitmer administration’s misrepresentation of nursing home deaths.” Carra continued, “These people were forced by Whitmer to die sad and alone with COVID-19. It’s time to hold her accountable for her actions. As elected officials, we must form this committee to determine if Whitmer’s reckless actions warrant impeachment.”

McBroom is taking a more measured approach. He is trying to bring in a neutral third party which can weigh in on the debate between the Auditor General and MDHHS. He says there are legitimate reasons to question how Health and Human Services reached its tally.

Part of what was really frustrating to see was that the department is relying entirely on self-reporting from these facilities and has not done its own audit on the accuracy of this self-reporting. That’s really troubling. They simply say, ‘we’re absolutely confident these places are doing a good job.’ And yet, the department has always audited these facilities for how well they’re actually taking care of people.

McBroom says it is a high bar to prove criminal conduct took place and all parties involved need to be exhaustive in their efforts to bring the facts to light before pursuing something as serious as impeachment.

Clearly people who were young and infected were housed with people who were older and vulnerable, and infected folks were sent back to nursing homes and able to spread the disease. No one is saying that that isn’t just atrocious and people shouldn’t be held accountable for it. Determining whether there is criminal liability is a much, much higher threshold, and I don’t know whether we are going to get there or not.

McBroom says the emergence of the omicron variant has not stopped the state Senate from continuing its work in Lansing.

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