LANSING, Mich. — The Senate Oversight Committee on Tuesday issued a formal documents request to the Department of Health and Human Services, seeking intradepartmental communications between department officials related to the Whitmer administration’s policies that placed people infected with COVID-19 into the state’s nursing homes, adult foster care facilities and long-term care facilities.
“Over one-third of all of Michigan’s COVID-19 deaths reportedly occurred among residents and workers in the state’s nursing homes, adult foster care facilities and long-term care facilities,” said committee chairman Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township. “This tragic and untimely loss of our fellow Michiganders under this policy should have been foreseeable, and the people of this state deserve to know what decisions led the Whitmer administration to not only put the policy in place, but to defend it and maintain it. The Oversight Committee will not rest until we get answers or, if necessary, until people are held accountable for what happened.”
The formal request seeks all written correspondence to and from former Director Robert Gordon, his appointed replacement, Elizabeth Hertel; Sarah Etsy; Jonathan Warsh, and Dr. Joneigh S. Khaldun, in any way regarding the topic of COVID-19 and the aforementioned senior facilities.
The request seeks the same for the following:
- Executive Order No. 2020-07: Temporary restrictions on entry into health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities and juvenile justice facilities;
- Executive Order No. 2020-37: Temporary restrictions on entry into health care facilities, residential care facilities, congregate care facilities and juvenile justice facilities;
- Executive Order No. 2020-50: Enhanced protections for residents and staff of long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Executive Order No. 2020-95: Enhanced protections for residents and staff of long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic;
- Executive Order No. 2020-96: Temporary requirement to suspend certain activities that are not necessary to sustain or protect life; and any of its predecessor orders;
- Senate Bill 956 of 2020; and
- Senate Bill 1094 of 2020.
The request also seeks any and all documents DHHS provided to the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice per its request of Aug. 26, 2020.
The committee requested that the communications be turned over no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, March 16.
“We make these requests in good faith and look forward to the department’s cooperation. However, we would be remiss if we failed to note that the Michigan Legislature, a body comprised of elected representatives of the people of Michigan, has the legal and inherent right to receive and examine the data and documents,” the committee’s request states. “While we hope it can be avoided, we do possess and will utilize, if necessary, the ability to subpoena this information.”
The request comes on the heels of formal requests by lawmakers, including Sen. Lana Theis, that Attorney General Dana Nessel and acting U.S. Attorney General Monty Wilkinson conduct full state and federal investigations into the Whitmer administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its relation to its COVID-19 nursing home policies.
“It is an irrefutable fact that the people most vulnerable to COVID-19 are seniors over 65, regardless of race, religion or creed,” said Theis, R-Brighton, who signed the letters. “We have known this for nearly a year, yet the Whitmer administration has maintained — and publicly defended — its tragic policy of exposing patients with COVID-19 to those without the virus in the same nursing home and long-term care facilities, to disastrous results.
“The rising controversy in New York, which implemented a similar policy as Gov. Whitmer’s, has sharpened focus on Michigan’s policy and whether this administration has been truthful. For the sake of the families who lost loved ones to the virus in these facilities, the administration must be fully transparent, and a full investigation must be conducted to determine whether any wrongdoing occurred and, if it did, to ensure justice be delivered.”
Michigan is one of only a few states with policies that brought COVID-19-positive people into the facilities.