Runestad demands answers from DHHS director on nursing homes policies

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad on Monday called on Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel to answer questions surrounding the Whitmer administration’s nursing home policies.

“The administration’s executive orders led to putting COVID-19-infected patients into the same facilities as our most vulnerable,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “Director Hertel needs to provide information about how this was allowed to happen, why the administration ignored the Health Care Association of Michigan’s warnings about their policies, and why their public coronavirus reporting has not been transparent.”

The questioning comes days after Runestad and seven other state senators sent separate letters to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and the U.S. Department of Justice, calling for a full investigation into Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its relation to the governor’s nursing home policy.

“Despite what the governor continues to say publicly, her regional hub policy put our most vulnerable seniors at risk,” Runestad said. “Anyone suggesting otherwise is either not being truthful or trying to play clever word games to hide mistakes.

“At a time when we knew that our seniors were the most vulnerable to this virus, Michigan and four other states still went ahead with this disastrous policy. Even worse, the Detroit News reported last summer that ‘Michigan hubs picked to care for COVID-19 seniors have low quality ratings.’ Clearly, mistakes were made. Now Director Hertel needs to provide answers.”

Director Elizabeth Hertel testified before the Senate Advice and Consent Committee last week about the state’s general COVID-19 trajectory. She is slated to testify in front of the committee again this week and is expected to answer more questions on the state’s response.

“Almost 90% of Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths are among those 60 years of age and older, many in nursing homes,” Runestad said. “The families who lost loved ones to COVID-19 need to know how and why this policy was able to take place. They deserve answers, and it’s about time we get them some.”