LANSING — Months after Michigan began requiring adult foster care and homes for the aged to submit weekly COVID-19 data, more than 60 such facilities have yet to fully comply, the state’s long-term care data shows.
One licensee, Michael Clark with Northern Springs Management Co. in Kalkaska, said information from the state on what was required was initially hard to come by.
“We’re just not getting the information,” Clark said Wednesday. “It is getting better but for a long time all we knew was what we heard on the news.”
In late April 2020 the state’s Department of Health and Human Services began requiring skilled nursing facilities —nursing homes — to report all cases of COVID-19 and deaths from the disease among staff and residents, to the state.
As of Oct. 28, the same reporting requirement was added to AFC homes and HFA facilities.
And while almost all of the state’s 439 licensed skilled nursing facilities report as required, an MDHHS spokesperson said some AFC and HFA facilities have yet to meet all requirements.
“We have oscillation from week to week,” said Lynn Sutfin, of MDHHS. “With anecdotal reports of facility admins forgetting it was Wednesday so they didn’t report, confusing weekly aggregate data reports —the reports that push to the website— with individual COVID-19 test result reports, and some indicating they believed they only had to report if they had “something” — a positive resident or a death— to report.”
Clark said staffing shortages also are a factor — a facility may train someone on how to collect and report data, that person quits, changes jobs or has to stay home to care for a child or other relative, leaving the facility back at square one.
Staff shortages have hit all care facilities hard during the pandemic, data from the American Association of Retired Persons shows.
In Michigan, the AARP said staffing shortages in nursing homes climbed from 34.3 percent in September to 42.2 percent in December.
Available data from one type of facility to another isn’t collected, though Mark Hornbeck of AARP said it is logical to believe nursing homes, AFC homes and HFA facilities all draw from the same pool of potential employees.
A bright spot: at Meadow View AFC in Fife Lake, the facility Clark oversees, difficulties in reporting have not impacted testing, he said.
“All of our people are getting tested every week,” Clark said.
AARP’s website contains a COVID-19 nursing home dashboard, which analyzes federally reported data, including from Michigan, in four-week periods, beginning June 1, 2020.
The state’s website Sutfin referenced also is a coronavirus dashboard, Michigan.gov/coronavirus, making long term care data available to the public.
The state’s dashboard includes total and new resident and staff cases and deaths reported from three types of licensed facilities:
Skilled nursing facilities are licensed to provide round-the-clock nursing care and medical treatment to seven or more residents.
AFC homes, licensed to provide care and supervision for 13 or more developmentally disabled, mentally ill, physically handicapped or aged people who can’t live alone but don’t need continuous care.
And HFA facilities that provide room, board, and supervised care to 21 or more people 55 and older.
As of Feb. 9, the latest date for which data is available, lists two of the 439 skilled nursing facilities licensed by the state as out of compliance — Oakland Manor in Pontiac and The Bay at Woodward in Detroit.
In contrast, 49 licensed AFC homes and 14 licensed HFA facilities had not reported the required data to the state.
Two of which — the Fife Lake facility and Meadow Hill AFC in Kingsley — are located in northern lower Michigan.
A message left with Meadow Hill was not returned.
The state can penalize licensed facilities for non-compliance, though so far has not done so, which Sutfin said was because of the exact challenges Clark highlighted.
“We have not levied fines, though we have the ability to do so through emergency administrative rules and the epidemic order establishing the reporting requirement,” Sutfin said. “In many cases this is a simply a case of forgetting to report, not understanding the requirements or a change in staffing.”
The ongoing data collection effort is intended to help MDHHS get a handle on the spread of the disease among the elderly and vulnerable populations, and the people who care for them, officials say.