A recent investigative report by the Detroit News has exposed the conditions which existed in Michigan nursing homes in April and May of 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The investigation made use of 1,200 pages of reports detailing 167 complaints related to staffing and COVID-19 from 67 nursing homes.

The complaints, which are not public records, were filed with Michigan’s Bureau of Community and Health Systems (BCHS), which is part of the state’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). While the Detroit News requested these records in 2020, the state only released them this year, two years and eight months later.

The records expose what healthcare workers, as well as patients and their family members, experienced in nursing homes at the hands of the capitalist profit system.

The elderly residents and patients at these facilities represent one of the most vulnerable sections of society. The state sees them not as people, but as a financial burden which it would be best to reduce. It is vital to keep this fact in sight when contemplating the snapshot of the horrifying and callous conditions revealed in these complaints.

Phyllis Hotchkiss talks to her son, Glen Hotchkiss, at her nursing home in Adrian, Michigan. [AP Photo/Carlos Osorio]

Among the facilities which received the highest number of complaints were the Rivergate complex in Riverview, consisting of Rivergate Terrace and Rivergate Health Care Center, and Villa at Parkridge in Ypsilanti. The two facilities making up the Rivergate complex received 15 complaints, of which state investigators substantiated eight. Villa at Parkridge received the same number of complaints, of which ten were substantiated.

The complaints against Villa at Parkridge show the experiences of patients and their family members. On April 18, 2020, a woman whose mother had been quarantined with a fever in March filed a complaint. The family had heard nothing from March 30 to April 8, when a nurse called to say that her mother had been transferred to a hospital for trouble breathing. At the hospital, she tested positive for COVID-19, and doctors discovered an infected bed sore that had exposed bone.

Two separate complaints from April 24 show that this case of neglect was not an isolated incident. One patient reported that she was not being regularly cleaned, while the wife of another said that her spouse had to wait for more than an hour after requesting help.

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