Bill to allow cameras in Mich. nursing home residents' rooms gaining traction

A push to allow camera installation inside the rooms of nursing home residents in Michigan is gaining traction now - three years after the bill was first introduced. 

"For so many of these families, particularly with the pandemic, they can't even get in to see their family members; they can't touch them, hold them, hug them to ensure they are getting the best care possible. This is something that's long overdue," says Sen. Jim Runestad, (R) Michigan.

He introduced a bill three years ago. He says the legislation is finally gaining traction after more seniors infected with COVID-19 have been sequestered in nursing homes, and as news broke about a heartbreaking case in which a 20-year-old roommate at the Westwood Nursing Center in Detroit was caught on a hidden camera last May attacking a 75-year-old COVID-19 patient. Norman Bledsoe later died.  

"It would require the nursing homes to allow the family to pay to have these installed, and much of the privacy policies would be implemented by nursing homes," Runestad explained.

Right now in Michigan, nursing home administrators can prevent residents from setting up a camera in their room. This measure would give residents and their families, or power of attorney, a choice.

Signs would have to be posted at the entrance of the room and family members would be in charge of monitoring the camera.

Other privacy provisions would have to be worked out with the facility to protect a patient's medical privacy.

"I don't know how anyone can stand in the way of a reasonable piece of legislation like this, but it has been an enormous amount of work to get it this far. There's been a lot of resistance," Sen. Runestad said.

Some of that resistance is coming from the SEIU Healthcare Michigan, the union that represents some nursing home workers.

The president said in a statement to FOX 2 that they are concerned about residents' safety, but also concerned that cameras could be used against workers who advocate for the union and for residents. They fear employers would use the footage to retaliate against workers for speaking about nursing home conditions.

But Senator Runestad feels the transparency is vital.

"When I talk to senior centers and senior groups I have never heard anything that gets them more animated, more excited, coming out of their chair saying, 'How do we ensure that this get passed?' Because they know that without some kind of monitoring they are absolutely at the mercy of the person that's in front of them."

The senator is encouraging people to head to his website to sign the petition pushing leaders to pass this bill. The Senate is expected to vote August 6.

RELATED: Gov. Whitmer vetoes COVID-19 nursing home bill; says based on 'false premise'