Nursing homes and other vulnerable populations put at risk

Michigan’s nursing homes have been particularly struggling with COVID-19, part of a health care system that is forced to choose winners and losers.

A significant number of coronavirus cases and deaths have been linked to the state’s nursing homes, including more than a third of the deaths in Kalamazoo County.

Michigan is in the top 10 of states with the most nursing home deaths, despite being one of the best in overall spread of the virus, a recent Bridge Magazine investigation found.

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The state legislature is considering a bill to isolate such patients in COVID-19 facilities, but it’s unclear if that’s enough to prevent the trend, considering that older people are more vulnerable. 

“It’s bleak everywhere,” Brian Lee, executive director of nursing home watchdog group Families for Better Care, told Bridge. “There’s not a single state I’ve watched that’s doing things well when it comes to our loved ones who live in these facilities.”

Older people are even more at risk if cases increase and begin to overwhelm hospitals, where doctors will be forced to prioritize who gets care and who has to wait, according to a new National Geographic report. 

Such a triage is not new, Yale University disaster response professor Nathaniel Raymond told National Geographic, because “decades of compounded racial disparity contribute to vulnerability.”

“It’s really important to recognize we are rationing medical care all the time,” Julia Lynch, a University of Pennsylvania professor of political science researching health policy, told National Geographic. “In the US, we fundamentally ration it by ability to pay.”

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