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Runestad reissues call for special investigator into Michigan’s nursing home deaths

LANSING, Mich. — State Sen. Jim Runestad on Tuesday reissued his call to fund a special investigator to look into the Whitmer administration’s COVID-19 nursing home policies after an independent report by Michigan’s auditor general confirmed that Michigan’s health department had underreported deaths of patients in nursing homes by 42%.

“From this independent report by Michigan’s own auditor general, we now know that more than 8,000 Michiganders in long-term care facilities died from COVID-19,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “We will never know how many lives may have been saved if COVID-positive residents were not placed in nursing homes.”

Runestad introduced Senate Bill 338 in March 2021 to designate funding to investigate nursing home policies implemented by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The bill was introduced days after Attorney General Dana Nessel denied a request by Runestad and seven other members of the Michigan Senate to investigate the administration’s handling of pandemic policies in the state’s long-term care policies.

“The governor’s executive orders put COVID-19-positive patients into the same facilities as our most vulnerable residents without ensuring that facilities had the necessary ventilation equipment to treat COVID positive patients,” Runestad said. “Forty-five other states decided against this dangerous policy. But the Whitmer administration ignored early warnings from health care experts, such as the Health Care Association of Michigan in early March, and our seniors paid the price.”

SB 338 would create a one-time appropriation to designate $250,000 for a special investigator to be placed under the Michigan Legislative Council. Specifically, the investigator would be appointed to investigate the long-term care and residential care facility policies implemented by the governor and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

“We owe it to the families of nursing home residents to learn the truth about how this happened, why it was allowed to happen, and why the administration refused for two years to provide accurate nursing home COVID-19 data to the Legislature,” Runestad said. “We need to fund a special investigator to get to the bottom of things and get answers for grieving families.”

SB 338 is before the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

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