Runestad reintroduces bipartisan nursing home camera bill once ‘pocket vetoed’ by governor

Runestad reintroduces bipartisan nursing home camera bill once ‘pocket vetoed’ by governor

LANSING, MI State Sen. Jim Runestad on Tuesday reintroduced his legislation to better protect nursing home residents by allowing them to install cameras in their own rooms.

“It is a tragic reality that vulnerable seniors risk suffering in isolation and from physical abuse because of bad actors who masquerade as caregivers or otherwise gain access to these facilities,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need this legislation, but unfortunately, abuse occurs in nursing homes, so we must do what we can to help protect these residents. That is why it is imperative to return this legislation to the governor’s desk for her signature.”

Senate Bill 717 mirrors SB 77 of 2019, which was left unsigned by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer after it was passed by the Legislature with bipartisan support, including unanimous approval in the Senate.

“The serious issues surrounding the safety of vulnerable seniors in the care of nursing homes is not going away — it cannot simply be forgotten with a pocket veto,” Runestad said. “It is my hope that we can return this commonsense, bipartisan legislation to the governor’s desk and finally give our nursing home patients and their families this important tool for their own safety.”

The bill had previously gained support in the Legislature after an elderly nursing home resident was severely beaten by a 20-year-old man with coronavirus who was placed in the Westwood Nursing Center in Detroit under the governor’s COVID-19 executive orders. The attack, which left a 75-year-old man with broken fingers, broken ribs and a broken jaw, was caught on video and shared by the media.

Runestad’s bill would give residents the option of installing a camera in their own room. Any roommates would need to sign off on the camera, and signage acknowledging the camera’s presence would be required at the front of a facility where an electronic monitoring device was in use.

“Allowing residents to place cameras in rooms will act as a powerful deterrent to abuse, enable communication with loved ones and help prevent future tragedies,” Runestad said. “Everyone deserves to be treated with common decency and basic respect — especially our most vulnerable seniors who are confined to nursing care.”

The bill has also gained the support of leading advocates for seniors and long-term care patients.

“The Michigan Long Term Care Ombudsman Program strongly supports legislation that provides for cameras and communication devices to be used by nursing home residents. Residents should have the right to utilize these devices to connect with friends and family in the community as well as assure appropriate and timely care is delivered to meet their needs. We commend Sen. Runestad for proposing legislation that supports quality of life and care for residents through the option to utilize these electronic devices,” said Michigan Long term Care Ombudsman Salli Pung.

AARP Michigan State Director Paula D. Cunningham said lawmakers have a duty to provide for the protection of nursing home residents.

“Protecting the health and well-being of nursing home residents and their property is something our state can easily bolster by allowing the voluntary use of video cameras and communication devices in the rooms of residents if they and their families so choose. These common, modern technologies provide residents and their families peace of mind that appropriate, secure and timely care is being provided while also providing opportunity and social connectivity to friends, family and the community. AARP urges the Michigan Legislature to support this important legislation,” Cunningham said.

AMAC Action President Bob Carlstrom agreed, saying devices also help patients remain connected with their loved ones.

“When families entrust their loved ones to a nursing home or other care facility, there is an expectation that the care they receive will be in a safe and nurturing environment. Unfortunately, we’ve seen disturbing evidence of elderly abuse in some of these facilities. Voluntarily installing cameras and communications devices safeguards the well-being of vulnerable seniors, and the capability for them to use these devices to connect with relatives and friends outside of the care facility helps them to maintain important relationships while assisting them in remaining socially active,” Carlstrom said.


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