Rep. Yaroch: LARA was complicit with the state’s plan that jeopardized vulnerable nursing home patients

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State Rep. Jeff Yaroch pointed to written testimony recently received from the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) as a concerning indicator that the entity charged with enforcing proper infection control at nursing homes did not look at any science, data, or research when it came to a plan to place COVID-19 positive patients among vulnerable populations in nursing homes.

LARA merely did what the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) told them to do, said Yaroch, who chairs a House Appropriations Subcommittee devoted to LARA and the Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS).

Yaroch, of Richmond, said he was disappointed by original testimony from LARA in June on what science was used, if any, to determine the safety of DHHS’s plan to put COVID-19 patients under the same roof as healthy residents in long-term care facilities. Over 2,000 of Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths have been nursing home residents. Yaroch then received written testimony from LARA following up on the June hearing.

“LARA is the department responsible for ensuring the safety of Michigan’s nursing home patients,” Yaroch said. “In their responses to my questions, LARA officials said they do not determine policies regarding nursing homes, so they didn’t look at the data. But they also claim they provided input to the administration. So which is it? If the department cannot explain why they think it makes sense, then this is a reckless policy which is needlessly putting a vulnerable population in danger and they are complicit in what is taking place.”

“As COVID-19 is a new virus, there is no quasi-expert with a diploma in their DHHS cubicle who knows what the right answer is. As LARA has 80 inspectors in the trenches inspecting nursing homes, I would think someone might want to ask them if this plan made sense. It is clear from LARA’s testimony that they blindly followed whatever DHHS said and did not care enough about our nursing home patients to even question if this was a good idea – when it is their duty to protect them. I guess it is more important to LARA to go along to get along.”

Yaroch specifically asked LARA about infection control surveys, which offer an opportunity for feedback about the governor’s plan and its effectiveness. 

“Their response disclosed there are lapses in maintaining and executing protocols that are in place,” Yaroch said. “This is a highly transmissible virus, so lapses equate to people getting sick and people potentially dying. That response is concerning and it shows the administration needs to review this course of action.”

Yaroch has co-sponsored a House resolution calling on our Governor to end the current COVID-19 nursing home placement policy. HR 276 was formally adopted by the Michigan House. Similar legislation, Senate Bill 956, seeks to curtail this policy.

SB 956 requires the state’s Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), along with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, to complete an evaluation and report of current policies regarding COVID-19 patients in nursing homes by Aug. 15.

The legislation also tasks DHHS with developing a new plan by Sept. 1 which creates at least one dedicated regional facility within each of the state’s eight health regions for use as COVID-19 patient centers. The placement of individuals with COVID-19 in any long-term care facility when the facility doesn’t have a separate, dedicated building for patients to be properly quarantined and cared for would be prohibited.

Yaroch voted to advance this plan.