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Employees at other McLaren locations allege lack of COVID protocols, staffing problems

Posted at 5:47 PM, Jun 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-08 18:04:30-04

(WXYZ) — A 7 Action News investigation prompted a federal agency to ask for a probe into the conditions and COVID-19 protocols inside McLaren Macomb hospital. Now additional medical staff are speaking out, alleging that McLaren Macomb is not the only location with staffing and work condition problems.

McLaren Macomb staff shared photos of dirty bathrooms, bags of garbage, and soiled linens.

Last month, two nurse whistleblowers from the emergency department told the 7 Investigators the hospital wasn’t sanitizing rooms and equipment properly after treating COVID-19 patients. Other complaints to the state alleged that COVID patients were not isolated.


“It is very dirty, it is not clean, it is not being sanitized," said one McLaren Macomb ER nurse who asked that we not reveal their identity. "We have two housekeepers on the day shift for a massive emergency department. After 3 p.m., I believe that one housekeeper is shared for most of the hospital.”

“It’s terrifying because someone could be coming in for abdominal pain, and they’re going to be leaving with COVID,” said the other nurse who asked that we not reveal their identity.

Those nurses say they had to stay anonymous because they fear losing their jobs. However, after they spoke out, the 7 Investigators received allegations from more employees across the region saying other McLaren locations also had staffing and COVID protocol issues as well.

“Everybody’s fleeing. We had another tech put in her two weeks. She’s just burnt out, everyone’s burnt out,” said Certified Surgical Tech Keegan Kubacki, who works at McLaren Thumb Region Hospital in Bad Axe.

As a union steward, Kubacki is allowed to speak publicly with 7 Investigators. She said the hospital did not tell employees last fall that they had not been testing patients for COVID-19 prior to surgeries.

“We were under the assumption they were all getting tested, and then come to find out in November of last year we found they weren’t getting tested at all,” Kubacki said.

Kubacki says after that, the hospital did test some patients but she says they recently learned patients coming in for quick procedures like cataract surgery or pain injections are still not tested for the coronavirus.

“So they’re not masked, not COVID tested," Kubacki said. "They’ve never been COVID tested and we weren’t aware.”

Kubacki says all of those untested patients share the same pre-op area.

“We’re not quarantined after we do cases with patients who haven’t been tested, so then we’re right on to the next patient,” she said. “Just because we work for a hospital you would think they would do the right thing, we’d be following all the safest protocols and it’s very much not happening.”

After receiving tips from viewers and other employees about other McLaren locations, the 7 Investigators asked the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) about complaints filed against McLaren since the start of the pandemic.

Here are the complaints as provided to the 7 Investigators by LARA:

McLaren Oakland 50 N. Perry St, Pontiac:

11 McLaren Oakland complaints were received since 03/01/20:

  • All 11 were triaged by intake staff under CMS protocols and the complainant(s) was referred to the hospital’s AO (Accrediting Organization) and any other appropriate entities.

McLaren Flint - 401 South Ballenger Hwy, Flint:

25 McLaren Flint complaints were received since 03/01/20:

  • 4 were referred to CMS and 3 were approved for the Bureau of Community & Health Services (BCHS) federal team to investigate.
    • 2 are pending investigation and 1 was investigated but no citations were issued.
    • One of the complaints was not approved by CMS for the BCHS federal team to investigate as CMS instead referred the complaint to the Quality Improvement Organization (QIO).

21 were triaged by intake staff under CMS protocols and the complainant(s) was referred to the hospital’s AO and any other appropriate entities.

*Note – there is one additional intake in that was closed after it was determined to be regarding outpatient care (not part of the certified hospital) and the complainant was referred to the LARA Bureau that regulates individual health care professionals.

McLaren Thumb Region 1100 S. Van Dyke, Bad Axe:

1 McLaren Thumb Region complaint was received since 03/01/20 and it was referred to CMS and approved by CMS for the BCHS federal team to investigate.

McLaren Lapeer Hospital 1375 N. Main, Lapeer:

11 McLaren Lapeer intakes were received since 03/01/20:

  • 1 was referred to CMS and approved for the BCHS federal team to investigate (investigation completed 07/29/20). The allegation was substantiated, and a standard level citation was issued.
  • 8 were triaged by intake staff under CMS protocols and the complainant was referred to the hospital’s AO and any other appropriate entities.
  • 2 were disapproved by CMS and the complainant was referred to the hospital’s AO and any other appropriate entities.

Kevin Tompkins, Sr. VP Marketing and Planning for McLaren Healthcare, released this information to the 7 Investigators about the allegations:

"Regarding McLaren’s policy for screening and testing patients for COVID-19:

  • Consistent with most, if not all hospitals and health systems in Michigan, all patients entering any McLaren facility are screened for signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If a patient exhibits any signs or symptoms during this screen process, they are tested for COVID-19.
  • Testing for COVID-19 in asymptomatic patients prior to any inpatient or outpatient procedure is determined by the patient’s physician based on that physician’s review of the patient’s condition as well as their personal preference.
  • As of 3:00PM yesterday, McLaren has conducted 262,516 COVID-19 tests since the beginning of the pandemic.

Regarding staffing:

  • Like many other health systems, all McLaren’s hospital facilities are experiencing shortages in key personnel in areas to include Environmental Services and other support areas. We are working diligently to recruit, hire and retain workforce members in these areas to reduce and eliminate these shortages.
  • When looking just at the last 3 months, we filled a total of 2,055 positions.
    • -1,270 were filled with external hires
    • -785 were filled internally
    • -502 of the hires were in the Nurse Job Family.
  • Particularly for these hard to fill, entry level positions, we have increased rates of pay to help us be competitive in the employment market.
  • We have reviewed most, if not all, of our job descriptions for these hard to fill entry level positions to remove any requirements that would be an unnecessary barrier for applicants.
  • We are looking at programs and apprenticeships that target under-represented populations to promote health care careers and fill the pipeline of talent at all job levels and classifications.
  • We recently were notified by Grand Valley State University that we received the Nursing Workforce Diversity (NWD) grant and received full funding of $2.2 million. This will allow 30 McLaren nurses from diverse/disadvantaged backgrounds to advance their education.

Providing clean, welcoming facilities and services to all our patients must be a fundamental operational goal. We are following the guidelines and standards set out in State of Michigan regulations and those of the CDC for providing clean, sanitary conditions and COVID-19 testing of patients and employees. We are also providing appropriate staff to care for patients through financial incentives and bonuses.

We are committed to identifying and quickly correcting any conditions that do not meet these basic standards."

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