Health dir. explains discrepancies in new report on COVID death numbers at long-term care facilities

Posted at 6:00 PM, Jan 12, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-12 18:00:07-05

SOUTHFIELD (WXYZ) — We are days away from Michigan Auditor General Doug Ringler releasing his final report on the number of COVID-19 deaths in the state's "long-term care" facilities.

Ringler's office began compiling the data after a request from Michigan House Oversight Committee Chairman Steve Johnson (R-Wayland).

Representative Johnson has said that Michigan residents deserve to know the cost of Governor Whitmer's "disastrous policy of placing COVID-positive patients into nursing homes."

The auditor general's final report is being sent to Johnson Wednesday and will be posted on the auditor general's website on Monday, January 17, 2022.

On Wednesday, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Director Elizabeth Hertel briefed reporters via Zoom to talk about why she expects there to be a discrepancy between the auditor general's number of COVID-19 deaths at long-term care facilities and those compiled by MDHHS.

Hertel said any discrepancy in the number of COVID deaths is due to a difference in what the auditor general is reporting as a long-term care facility.

The three types of long-term care facilities that are licensed through the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and regulated by LARA and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) are skilled nursing facilities, adult foster care facilities, and homes for the aged.

MDHHS does not recognize assisted living facilities as long-term care because they are not regulated or licensed by the state.

In a letter from Hertel wrote to the auditor general, she said his analysis does not apply the CDC definition of a COVID-19 death reportable by a long-term care facility.

"A reportable long-term care COVID-19 death is defined by the National Healthcare Safety Network as a resident who died from COVID-19 related complications and includes resident deaths in the facility, and in other locations in which the resident with COVID-19 was transferred to receive treatment. Residents not expected to return to the long-term care facility are excluded from the count," she wrote.

In her letter, Hertel also told the auditor she fears his final review letter will be "misinterpreted" and "question the work and integrity of long-term care facilities, local health departments, coroners, and other frontline workers who we rely on to report data."