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Senate panel sends subpoena to MDHHS

Of more than 9,000 nursing homes analyzed, 61% were cited for one or more infection-control deficiencies.
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Of more than 9,000 nursing homes analyzed, 61% were cited for one or more infection-control deficiencies.

A state Senate committee has issued a subpoena to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services for documents related to its COVID-19 response.

Specifically, the Senate Oversight Committee wants documents dealing with the management of COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing homes and other congregate care facilities.

Senator Ed McBroom (R-Vulcan) is the committee chair. McBroom said he’s frustrated with foot-dragging to get documents he requested two month ago.

“In my opinion, the department has been a little bit coy here at times, where we ask for certain documents and then we get letters back saying, well those aren’t technically the way the documents exist even though we both know exactly what I was asking for,” he said.

The MDHHS legislative liaison said the process dragged out as the department tried to identify the communications as well a source of funding within its budget to pay for complying with the request.

She said DHHS had to sort through 55,000 communications and redact sensitive or private information.

“As I hope you can understand and appreciate, the request from the committee asks for documents and emails from many top-ranking former and current officials within the department over an 11-month period,” said Emily Schwarzkopf. “These topics were of constant conversation within the department.”

That explanation did not satisfy Senator Lana Theis (R-Brighton).

“Everytime we send something and we get something back, it sounds like they’re parsing everything out,” she said. “So, it appears obvious that, that, that department is trying to avoid producing the information.”

More than 5,000 people in Michigan nursing home and congregate care settings have died from COVID.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.