MCCL calls for resignation of Commissioner Malcolm as crisis continues in long-term care centers
ST. PAUL — Today Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL) called for the resignation of Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) Commissioner Jan Malcolm and an immediate end to the state’s policy of placing infected COVID-19 patients in long-term care centers—especially centers with known infection-control problems. About 80 percent of Minnesota’s coronavirus deaths have occurred in long-term care or assisted living facilities, according to MDH.
"Other states have learned not to transfer infected patients into nursing homes. They have found alternatives in order to better protect people. Minnesota still hasn't," says MCCL Executive Director Scott Fischbach. "There are no excuses. We are simply failing the most vulnerable members of our state. A change in leadership and policy at the Minnesota Department of Health is now long overdue."
MDH's policy has generated significant media attention and criticism from elder advocacy groups, lawmakers, the families of nursing home residents, and others. "As it stands," noted a Star Tribune report yesterday, "even nursing homes with poor infection-control standards, as well as large and deadly clusters of the virus, have been allowed to accept infected patients from hospitals."
Last Wednesday, MDH released reports documenting the failure of several Minnesota nursing homes to control the spread of the coronavirus from patients who have the disease. On Tuesday, the department said that 20-30 percent of facilities it had either looked at or talked with on the phone are not in compliance with infection-control standards. MDH has declined to publicly disclose the number of deaths in each facility or identify which facilities fail to meet safety standards.
Commissioner Malcolm continued to defend the policy of returning COVID-19 patients to care facilities during a legislative hearing on Tuesday. She acknowledged that her department has not compared infection transmission rates in facilities that have accepted infected patients to the rates in facilities that have not.
"The grave dangers to residents of long-term care facilities—and the need to keep the virus out of such facilities—have been clear from the beginning. That was months ago," says Fischbach. "This is an emergency, and Commissioner Malcolm and her team are not getting the job done. Minnesota deserves better. No category of humanity is expendable. No group of human beings should be forgotten."
As of today, 896 of Minnesota’s 1,115 coronavirus deaths have taken place in long-term care or assisted living facilities. The COVID-19 death rate in Minnesota’s nursing homes is worse than the rates in the neighboring states of Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, and South Dakota, according to data from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.