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Long-term care workers need our support, not AG Nessel’s team of sleuths

On Apr. 26, state Attorney General Dana Nessel announced a plan to bring additional scrutiny and watchdogs down on an already vulnerable industry – the Long-Term Care community (LTC).

The LTC community has chronically been underfunded and overregulated, under-staffed and overstressed. During a time in which we should be finding every available avenue to support this group of dedicated caregivers, the AG has determined it would be better to spend part of a $5 million grant to create the Sentinel Project, which she described in a press release as a “law enforcement effort.” The initiative has been dressed up as protecting vulnerable adults residing in nursing and long-term care facilities.

The LTC industry is already the most regulated industry in the United States. Attorney General Nessel has officially turned it into the most persecuted industry in Michigan.

With this announcement, word has quickly spread throughout the state’s LTC community and there is a great deal of apprehension, concern, anxiety and fear. The work of an average LTC worker was difficult before COVID-19. It is both physically and emotionally demanding and often thankless. Now, the working environment can be outright hostile. This is a workforce that should be lauded as heroes, not harassed through an exhaustive effort from the executive branch.

The timing of this announcement is curious and reeks of distractionist politics. Recently, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer came under immense scrutiny for an executive order early in the COVID-19 pandemic that required nursing homes to take in COVID-positive patients. The directive put an already vulnerable population at risk, as the data showed older people in close confines were more susceptible to the virus. Other states with similar rules changed course, but Gov. Whitmer continued on with her policy amid public outcry.

Instead of taking the honorable path, acknowledging there were many unknowns with COVID-19 (and still are) and working to improve emergency response following decisions that were made, her administration is on the offensive – setting the stage to go after the same caregivers who have made numerous sacrifices during COVID-19 to care for your loved ones.

There is honor in caring for nursing home residents. Speak with any employee and you will often hear them talk about their residents with the same gentle, caring tone that they would talk about their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Our healthcare heroes in our long-term care facilities need our help and support as they work tremendously hard to keep people safe.

It will be tremendously difficult to attract new people to a profession in need of workers when they are signing up to be a piece on a political chess board. This is a poor use of federal dollars, and an even poorer attempt to power wash Gov. Whitmer’s COVID-19 nursing home policies from people’s memories.

State Rep. Greg Markkanen of Hancock is serving his second term in the Michigan House representing residents of Baraga, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties, as well as Powell and Ishpeming townships in Marquette County.

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