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Wayne County officials are investigating whether Beaumont Health properly stored the bodies of people who died of COVID-19 at its hospital in the city of Wayne.

"On Monday, the Wayne County Health Division received a report that Beaumont Wayne was storing dead bodies in a vacant building on its campus," Bill Nowling, a spokesman for Wayne County Executive Warren Evans, said in a statement. "On Tuesday, after being initially turned away by hospital administrators, county health inspectors we allowed access to the building and discovered a make-shift morgue in operation containing approximately 50 bodies.

"The Wayne County Health Division has launched an investigation to determine whether county health ordinances were violated by the hospital system. Our request was simple: let us see the facility and show us the authorization.”

Beaumont Hospital-Wayne is located on Annapolis at Venoy between Michigan Avenue and Van Born.

Beaumont Health officials confirmed a number of people attempted to enter the hospital for an unknown reason.

"Yesterday, without advanced notice, without being able to explain their purpose, and without appropriately fitting PPE to protect themselves from the coronavirus, various individuals demanded entry into the warehouse," they said in a statement. "These individuals were later shown photographs of the temporary morgue setup. The purpose of their visit remains unclear." 

They also said the health care system has the county's approval to house a temporary morgue at the hospital.

"In early April, as the COVID-19 crisis peaked, Beaumont obtained approvals from the City of Wayne’s Department of Community Development and Planning, Building Department and Fire Marshall to convert part of a warehouse into a temporary morgue," the hospital said in a statement. "Once we obtained approval, we worked quickly to ensure that part of the warehouse space could serve this temporary purpose in a safe, appropriate and respectful way. Beaumont continues to use the rest of the warehouse to store much needed supplies we distribute to our hospitals across Metro Detroit."

Last week, the Royal Oak-based health care provider addressed reports and rumors it was closing the Wayne facility, which was designated a COVID-19 only hospital.

"Beaumont Hospital, Wayne is important to Beaumont Health and is not permanently closing," it said. "The hospital is now temporarily paused and not serving any patients. Most staff is being redeployed to other Beaumont sites where they can provide care for more patients. Others will be temporarily laid off and could potentially participate in enhanced state/federal unemployment programs."

It said because an expected surge in COVID-19 cases was moderate, the health care system didn't need to keep staffing the hospital for the pandemic.  

"However, we are still operating under several executive orders that severely restrict the extent and type of care we can provide to our community," the hospital system said. "Until these executive orders are lifted and the disaster declaration has ended, we are not changing the COVID-19 only status of the Wayne hospital. This is in preparation for a second surge that could occur after the stay at home restrictions end."

cramirez@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez

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