Trinity CEO: COVID-19 mitigation efforts don’t take away freedoms

Michigan News

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The head of Trinity Health Michigan says frustration prompted a Twitter response to Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, garnering a lot of attention online.

“Mike, as a member of the medical community you claim you are working with, we don’t see you. One phone call with our CMOs does not constitute working with us. We have told you we are in trouble, but you decided that the pandemic was a good time to take a vacation,” Trinity Health Michigan President and CEO Rob Casalou replied to Shirkey’s statement on new MDHHS restrictions that take effect Wednesday.

The health system leader followed that up with, “We need leadership and there appears to be only one leader in Lansing willing to deal with the reality of this public health crisis. The leaders of our state Senate and state House have decided that a recess was more important and then choose to criticize from the sidelines.”

Casalou’s posts refer to the GOP-led legislature going on a break that typically covers the start of firearm hunting season and Thanksgiving each year. One glaring difference being that previous November breaks didn’t align with surging cases of a deadly virus.

“When I saw the reply from the Senate Majority Leader, I just hit a point of frustration that I no longer could accept the fact we’d allow politics to continue to exist in the single largest public health crisis of our lifetime,” Casalou told News 8 Monday afternoon after his tweets received more than a thousand engagements.

“There’s been conversations, no doubt about it. And he has, I’m sure, talked to many of our health professionals, but talking to people and listening to them are two different things. Acting on their concerns, being a voice for our caregivers, it’s not good enough just to say, ‘I talked to people.’ Because we are advising things that he and others are not supporting.”

Shirkey’s statement, like many previously, took aim at Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announcing restrictions without consultation or approval from the legislature.

Michigan Public Health Code gives MDHHS Director Robert Gordon authority to enact this week’s newest restrictions, which come after health leaders begged the public to follow the state’s mask mandate and other guidelines aimed at mitigating spread of COVID-19. 

MDHHS previously implemented a statewide mask mandate that Whitmer has asked, unsuccessfully, legislators to codify.

“We support them because we desperately need them,” Casalou said. “I think what we saw last night in the latest orders is quite a balance. Quite a balance between trying to maintain some level of economic freedom, economic ability, but also try to get at those things that are causing the current spread. So, I think right now, we are happy with the direction that the governor and department took.”

The governor is now relying on the health code after the state Supreme Court ruled the law previously cited to enact executive orders was unconstitutional. 

That ruling was a big legal win for a legislature that has called on the governor to work across the aisle to come up with a statewide response.

Currently, a House GOP plan is sitting in committee and would give local entities more control over restrictions if certain thresholds are met. 

Other legislative measures passed after the court ruling include extending unemployment benefits and shielding entities from COVID-related lawsuits.

“What’s really missing in those is mitigation of the current problems,” Casalou responded. “It’s great to hear how we’re going to handle the vaccine. It’s great to hear a lot of these kind of forward-thinking initiatives; They do nothing for us today. We need to deal with the current crisis and their plan shows no effort in that regard.”

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