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From February to August this year, CMS issued 18 sets of guidelines for long-term care facilities (LTCFs) to help combat the global COVID-19 pandemic crisis. Everywhere I go, I hear the same message. LTCFs struggling to keep up with the changes and then the expectation to perform at 100% compliance. To top it off, they are hit with record fines due to noncompliance of the new guidance. The importance of passing state and federal surveys has never been higher, and this already resource-strapped healthcare environment is harmed by monetary fines during a pandemic. The U.S. PIRG, a public interest advocacy group, examined data voluntarily submitted to federal health officials by nursing homes in May through August. Almost 3,000 nursing homes said they had less than a week’s worth of PPE on hand. More than one in five nursing homes reported “severe” shortfalls of both personal protective equipment (PPE) and staffing, a new study published in the journal Health Affairs found.

 

 

Who can argue that the MOST important work within this healthcare setting is to keep the vulnerable residents and healthcare personnel safe? Yet, this is not the attitude of the surveyors. It’s as if they are determined to find something, anything wrong. I had one facility cited for crumbs on a Hoyer-Lift.  Don’t you think our needs to be more on helping these facilities? Most important, rather than checking a box on a clipboard, is keeping healthcare workers and residents protected and safe. If he goal of state surveys, which has been around since the 1970s is to help protect nursing home residents, fines in a time of shortages is not the answer.

 

Facilities can be better prepared with utilizing the new CMS COVID-19 specific survey.

 

Visiting the CMS assessment on CMS.gov is an important first step, and because of changing guidelines it is vital to check this site often. (HOW OFTEN?) This assessment will give us the specifics of what the surveyor will be looking for. (Survey specific guidelines begin on page 13.)

 

This is an excellent first step in preparedness for a survey. Knowing exactly what the surveyor will be looking give facilities an opportunity to be prepared, and it’s a great guideline for staff and resident safety. One key to these guidelines for staff is understanding. The surveyors want to make sure staff understands the guidelines, as to be able to communicate things such as visitor entry guidelines to families of residents.

 

Heavily focused on infection control, the survey hits on standard precautions, transmission-based precautions, testing, data collection, and more. For a quick video walkthrough of the assessment, check out this video.