CMS Implements Infection Control Surveys for Nursing Homes
Nursing homes are potential hotspots where COVID-19 can quickly spread to vulnerable individuals. Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington became the epicenter of the outbreak in Washington after the virus spread rapidly among residents. Life Care Center is not the only nursing home affected, as the CDC reported on March 23, 2020 that 147 nursing homes in 27 states have at least one COVID-19 positive patient. Recognizing the need to keep nursing home residents and healthcare workers safe, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has implemented an enhanced, focused inspection process for nursing homes to combat the spread of COVID-19.
The first priority of CMS is immediate jeopardy situations, where patients’ safety is placed in imminent danger. Routine inspections are temporarily postponed. For three weeks, beginning on March 13, 2020, CMS is only conducting the following types of surveys:
- complaints or facility-reported incident surveys;
- targeted infection control surveys; and
- self-assessment for all providers and suppliers.
The complaints or facility-reported-incident surveys will be conducted at facilities in immediate jeopardy. Targeted infection control surveys are aimed to ensure providers are implementing actions to protect patient health and safety. Examples of practices inspected in an infection control survey include proper hand washing and proper use of personal protective equipment. The self-assessment tool may be used by providers to evaluate their infection control systems, mitigate risk and reduce potential for virus transmission. Facilities may face large fines and loss of Medicare or Medicaid funding if inspections uncover deficiencies related to COVID-19, such as the failure to report or to provide adequate care.
CMS guidance instructs facilities to restrict visitation of all visitors and non-essential health care personnel. As of April 2, 2020, every individual entering a nursing home, including healthcare workers, should be asked about COVID-19 symptoms and have their temperature checked. When visiting is necessary or allowed, the visitor’s temperature should be taken and social distancing practices should be followed. Nursing homes are encouraged to be creative in ways to stop spread of the virus, such as designating areas within a facility specifically for patients who have COVID-19. Nursing homes are also urged to create separate staff teams to care for patients with COVID-19.
CMS has published a fact sheet on the survey prioritization and Kirkland, Washington update, available at: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/kirkland-washington-update-and-survey-prioritization-fact-sheet. The CMS press release on the nursing home guidelines on April 2, 2020 is available at: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/press-releases/trump-administration-issues-key-recommendations-nursing-homes-state-and-local-governments
This article is current as of time of publication. Due to rapidly changing circumstances and updated regulations, we encourage you to confirm with your attorney and/or other advisors to make sure you are operating with the most current information available.
The Foster Swift health care practice group is available to assist with any questions related to the infection control requirements and CMS guidance for nursing homes.
Jennifer has particular expertise in health law and she represents providers with emphasis in the areas of physicians, hospice, home care and long term care, including one of the country’s largest long-term care organizations. She has a vast array of experience in teaming with providers in the areas of regulatory compliance and contracts.View All Posts by Author ›
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