Whitmer vetoes Republican-backed bill banning the admittance of COVID patients into nursing homes

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Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer accused Republicans of playing political games as she vetoed their bill banning nursing homes from housing coronavirus patients.

The Democrat lawmaker called out the Republican legislature in a statement Friday after shooting down the bill passed by the House last week, prompting backlash from Republicans who slammed Whitmer for her “mean-spirited move.”

(Image: WDIV screenshot)

In the aftermath of the devastating consequences in New York where Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo allowed coronavirus infected patients into nursing homes, the GOP-led bill in Michigan stated that it “bans nursing homes from admitting or retaining an individual starting Sept. 1 who tests positive for COVID-19 unless the person had recovered or unless a nursing home could provide care in a separate building.”

Though the New York State Department of Health reported that the COVID-19 death rate from nursing homes was about 6,500, Whitmer slammed the Michigan bill, which passed with a 74-34 vote, for jeopardizing the health of nursing home residents and others in the state where more than 2,000, or 31%, of the COVID-19 related deaths are linked to nursing homes.

“Protecting the health and safety of nursing home residents and their staff continues to be a top priority for my administration,” she said in a statement.

“Senate Bill 956 is nothing more than a political game that would relocate vulnerable seniors without any requirement for consent, doctor’s approval, or notification to patients and their families,” she added. “It’s time for the Republican legislature to get serious about protecting our most vulnerable and addressing the public health and economic crisis faced by our state. We look forward to continuing our work with stakeholders and legislators on the task force to develop real solutions that make sense for Michigan seniors and their families.”

In a letter to state senators sent Friday, Whitmer touted how she has protected Michigan’s nursing home population “from day one,” arguing that the bill was “based on the false premise that isolation units created within existing facilities are somehow insufficient to protect seniors.”

“The legislation fails to explain how such facilities would be staffed or paid for, or how frail residents would be protected during the potentially traumatic transfer from one facility to another,” she wrote, adding that she was not approving the bill because it “fails to protect” Michigan seniors and their families.

State Republicans fired back in a statement of their own.

“In a mean-spirited move, Gov. Whitmer announced she vetoed a plan that would have prevented COVID-19 patients from entering our nursing homes,” read the statement.

“Only a few governors had allowed this reckless practice in the first place, and all except Gov. Whitmer have since changed course and stopped the practice, including embattled New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Gov. Whitmer should be ashamed, and she certainly is acting like it,” the statement read.

“Her veto decision was hidden in a late Friday afternoon news release with a headline announcing something entirely different. But make no mistake. The governor owns her veto and the abhorrent policy that has contributed to the deaths of thousands of people,” it continued.

“Their families deserved much better,” the statement concluded, “and the families who will eventually lose their loved ones because of the governor’s decision today deserve better as well.”

The chairperson for the Michigan Senior Advocates Council applauded Whitmer for her decision, however.

“Michigan’s most vulnerable citizens require unique medical care and living assistance to keep them safe and healthy. This legislation puts seniors at greater risk by failing to provide the enhanced and qualified staffing needed for their protection,” Linda Cook said. “We support the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 956 and express our gratitude to her for protecting the health and safety of all Michiganders during this difficult and unprecedented time.”

But the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Peter Lucido, called for a “veto override.”

“I am very disappointed and saddened that the governor vetoed this extremely important and commonsense legislation,” Lucido, a Republican from Macomb County’s Shelby Township, said, according to the Associated Press. “Politics should not prevail over the health and safety of our seniors and health care workers, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate and House to consider passing a veto override.”

Whitmer has come under criticism repeatedly during the coronavirus outbreak, even having to come to her husband’s defense in May when he was blasted for trying to get his boat placed on the water after the governor had called for people to stay at home.

The Democrat was also seen not practicing social distancing guidelines when she marched with Black Lives Matter activists and other protesters.

Michigan’s nursing homes also came under scrutiny when a brutal assault on an elderly patient by an employee was seen in a viral video that even caught the attention of President Donald Trump. The 75-year-old patient, Norman Bledsoe, had been placed in the facility per Whitmer’s policy where he suffered four broken fingers, a broken jaw, and broken ribs at the hands of Jaden Hayden, who was arrested.

Bledsoe passed away after the assault as his appetite and emotional health declined, according to the family who did not get to see him until shortly before he died because of coronavirus restrictions, reported The Detroit News.


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