State News

LeDuff: Some Infected Elderly in Michigan Are Hauled Around Like Laundry Bags

May 12, 2020, 11:13 PM by  Charlie LeDuff


The state of Michigan does not know how many elderly people in its nursing homes have died from Covid-19.

More shocking, bureaucrats have no idea how many elderly people have died whose care has been entrusted to the state.

More shocking still, there are no plans to stop introducing Covid-infected people into the nursing homes, as New York did this week.

Now, Deadline Detroit has received confidential data from a firm hired by the state to make wellness checks on indigent elderly people who are wards of the state.

The data runs from March 10 — the day of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's state of emergency declaration — to May 9. It paints a disturbing picture of neglect, where the sick and infected are carted around from one nursing home to another, sometimes to a hospital and back to the nursing home, where they eventually died.

The sources of the data have asked for anonymity for themselves and their clients, citing privacy laws and fear of retaliation.

The data covers about 950 people, which represents a small sampling of the elderly folks under state care. Of that number, 110 people have died – about 11 percent. At least 250 people were moved at least once, according to the data. Among them, 89 were moved at least twice; 59 were relocated three times.

The most vulnerable among us are being hauled around like laundry bags in the midst of a pandemic.

Such was the case of an octogenarian named C., who in the span of four weeks made two trips to the hospital and two trips back to his Detroit nursing home. He died last week at the nursing home. The cause of death Covid-19, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner.

His next of kin had yet to be notified when this reporter called. His niece was dumbstruck.

“It's really sad that people in the nursing homes are abused like that,” she said. “It's so sad that his life has to end like that. The injustice of it. God has relieved him of that now.”

The funeral will be a pauper's affair, Spartan and sparsely attended. Paid for from the public coffer.

“We don't have data on deaths coming from these facilities,” confirmed Lynn Sutfin, spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services. “It's something we're working on.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been generally praised for his handling of the pandemic, received blistering criticism last week after it came to light that the coronavirus cases inside New York’s nursing homes were even worse than believed. New statistics revealed 1,600 undisclosed deaths of people.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (Photo: State of Michigan)

Cuomo reversed course this week, declaring that the elderly may no longer be moved from the hospital back into the nursing homes until they test negative. He also called for twice-weekly testing of nursing home staff.

Gov. Whitmer is not expected to make similar changes.

“I have not heard of any plans to increase (quarantine) guidelines,” said Sutfin, the health department spokeswoman. “We are doing additional testing, however.”

Currently, nursing homes must take in Covid-positive patients, whether they arrive from a hospital or another home. This increases the chance for infection among the most susceptible population, experts say.

If no room exists at the nursing homes or hospitals, patients are sent to a 'hub' facility to handle overflow. One such hub facility in Detroit has reported no data, contrary to the governor's mandate. If there is no room in the hubs, patients are to be placed in alternative facilities like the TCF field hospital, which is now closed.

One third of US coronavirus deaths are linked to long term care facilities in the U.S., according to the New York Times

Illinois releases comprehensive data on cases and deaths in its nursing facilities. This may be one reason Illinois has far fewer Covid-19 deaths than Michigan. 

Consider that Cook County, Ill., which includes the city of Chicago, has a population of 5.2 million people and about 2,300 Covid-19 deaths. 

By contrast, Wayne County, which includes Detroit, has a population of 1.75 million, but has has suffered more than 2,100 deaths -- fifth-highest among U.S. counties, with more deaths than Manhattan or Los Angeles County.

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