Michigan auditor to review nursing home deaths

State auditors will review the accuracy of the number of coronavirus deaths linked to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Michigan.

Auditor General Doug Ringler agreed last week to conduct a comprehensive study at the request of House Oversight Committee Chairman Steven Johnson of Wayland. Johnson is among Republican lawmakers who have questioned if there is an undercount and who have criticized Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for allowing hospitalized COVID-19 patients no longer needing acute care, but still in quarantine, to return to designated units in nursing homes as some hospitals faced surging cases. 

There is no direct evidence the policy led to infections. The governor has said it complied with federal guidance, and the state health director has said nursing homes are accurately reporting the tally of virus-related deaths.

In a letter to Johnson, Ringler -- whom legislators appointed to an eight-year term in 2014 -- estimated the inquiry could be completed by late September or mid-October.

Nurse COVID-19

Michigan says 5,680 long-term care residents and 77 staff have died, accounting for 29% of nearly 19,800 confirmed COVID-19 deaths. The state requires long-term care facilities -- nursing homes and larger homes for the aged and adult foster care facilities -- to report deaths and infections.

RELATED: Michigan Health Director says nursing home COVID-19 deaths are accurate

Thousands of homes for the elderly and adult foster care facilities licensed to serve fewer than 13 residents are not mandated to report.

Johnson has asked auditors to review the Department of Health and Human Services' procedures for obtaining death reports from long-term care facilities, to check if nursing homes are correctly self-reporting death numbers, to look at death certificates, and to account for deaths in homes for the aged and adult foster care facilities.