Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Government issue COVID-19 reporting guidelines for nursing homes

Healthcare worker speaks with a patient at a nursing home facility. (Image: Screenshot from Vimeo of “How to Choose a Skilled Nursing Facility” from Lee Health)

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced this week new regulatory requirements requiring nursing homes to inform residents, their families and representatives of COVID-19 cases in their facilities. This comes on the heels of 17 dead bodies found stacked in a morgue intended for four at a New Jersey nursing facility. They later reported 70 members of their staff and residents diagnosed with the virus.

“We must have transparency and accurate reporting at all our long-term care facilities so we can protect our loved ones during this crisis,” said Congressman Colin Allred (TX-32). “Residents at nursing homes are some of the most vulnerable populations and in future economic packages, I will fight to ensure these facilities and their hard-working staff can get the resources they need to stay safe.”

The CMS will now require nursing homes to report cases of COVID-19 directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  This information must be reported in accordance with existing privacy regulations and statutes. This measure augments longstanding requirements for reporting infectious disease to State and local health departments. Finally, CMS will also require nursing homes to fully cooperate with CDC surveillance efforts around COVID-19 spread.

CDC will be providing a reporting tool to nursing homes that will support Federal efforts to collect nationwide data to assist in COVID-19 surveillance and response. CMS plans to make the data publicly available. This effort builds on recent recommendations from the American Health Care Association and Leading Age, two large nursing home industry associations, that nursing homes quickly report COVID-19 cases.

“Nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID-19. Today’s action supports CMS’ longstanding commitment to providing transparent and timely information to residents and their families,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma. “Nursing home reporting to the CDC is a critical component of the go-forward national COVID-19 surveillance system and to efforts to reopen America.”

The info is critical to understanding the impact on understanding the full impact of the virus.

“Scientific data derived from solid surveillance is a key element of recommendations to protect Americans, particularly our most vulnerable, from the devastating impact of COVID-19,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “This coordinated effort with CMS will allow CDC to provide even more detailed information to state and local health departments about how COVID-19 is affecting nursing home residents in order to develop additional recommendations to keep them safe.”

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