As coronavirus cases grow, so does scrutiny of nursing home infection plans

As coronavirus cases grow, so does scrutiny of nursing home infection plans

Reviewed by Kate Anderton, B.Sc. (Editor) Mar 4 2020 The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is ordering health inspectors to focus on infection-control practices at nursing homes and hospitals, particularly those where coronavirus infections have been identified among patients or in the community, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced Wednesday. "We are hyperfocused on infection control right now," Verma said. "Our role in this is to say, 'Were there some breaches of protocol? Was this facility following the guidelines that are in place? Was there handwashing? Were they changing gloves? Were they doing laundry appropriate? Was food handled appropriately?'" The heightened regulatory attention comes after the deaths of five people who had lived at Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington. They all had contracted COVID-19, a respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. Verma said inspectors would be dispatched to that nursing home to see whether staff there had followed infection control rules. She noted that the facility was cited for lapses last year, although inspectors subsequently determined the errors had been corrected. In a call with reporters, nursing home industry leaders said they supported the inspection directive, but they asked White House officials in a Wednesday meeting to address other problems, including potential shortages of supplies, such as masks and gowns, if the contagion continues to spread. "The links in that [supply] chain are getting a little weaker," said Randy Bury, president of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, which runs skilled rehabilitation facilities and other elderly care centers in 24 states. CMS on Wednesday also issued guidance clarifying that nursing homes have the authority to bar visitors in an effort to protect residents from infections — and should do so if those visitors traveled to certain counties within the preceding 14 days or if they showed symptoms of respiratory illness. Nursing home representatives welcomed that action, saying some family members and other visitors have been resistant in recent days to answer questions or follow protocols. "Some of them have been quite reluctant to comply," said Janet Snipes, the executive director of Holly Heights Nursing Center in Denver. Mark Parkinson, president of the American Health Care Association, an industry trade group, said that after the coronavirus crisis has passed, state lawmakers need to examine how low reimbursement from state Medicaid programs was hindering the quality of care for nursing home residents. "The Medicaid system for long-term care is chronically underfunded," he said during the telephone press conference. "We have been telling people that, ultimately, this would have consequences." Related Stories



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