New federal requirements that nursing homes report Covid-19 infections and deaths to residents’ families and federal authorities are causing concerns among some industry stakeholders.
The guidance, issued Sunday by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, requires nursing homes to provide information to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each week about coronavirus cases among workers or residents.
The new requirements demand, at a minimum, that “nursing homes must inform residents and their representatives within 12 hours of the occurrence of a single confirmed infection of COVID-19” or within three days after a staff member or resident develops new Covid-like respiratory symptoms.
Facilities could face penalties of up to $1,000 per week for violating the directive, which should be in effect by the end of the week, CMS Administrator Seema Verma said.
The “unprecedented” move is in response to an explosion of Covid-19 infections and deaths at the nation’s nursing homes, where hand-washing, proper use of personal protective equipment, and separation of residents by their Covid-19 status “continues to be a challenge,” Verma said Monday in a telephone briefing with reporters.
In a joint statement, the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living, voiced their support for the new guidelines.
“Long term care providers stand ready to share reports with CDC once we have final information on the details of the announcement,” said the statement from Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of AHCA/NCAL.
He said the long-term care industry supports “transparency to our residents, families and other stakeholders because knowledge is pivotal during a pandemic and our public health officials need to know where to send urgently needed resources.”
But LeadingAge, a group representing nonprofit nursing homes, expressed concerns about several aspects of the CMS guidance.
In a statement, Katie Smith Sloan, the group’s president and CEO, said “the possibility of monetary penalty for failure to report as required at a time when skilled nursing facilities are strapped financially and facing staffing challenges due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is unduly burdensome.”
Smith Sloan’s statement also said that “without sufficient PPE and testing supplies, our members are not fairly armed to fight the novel coronavirus, and are not able to protect staff and residents.”
The new infection reports provided to the CDC—including reported nursing home deaths—could end up being posted on the CMS’ Nursing Home Compare website, Verma said. “It’s our intent to make sure that this information is public,” she said.
“Now more than ever nursing home residents and their family members have a right to know what’s going on in these facilities,” Verma said.
The AHCA, which represents the nursing home industry, issued voluntary recommendations April 11 that called for nursing homes to notify family members about coronavirus outbreaks and Covid-19 infections.
“But we understood that that wasn’t happening,” Verma said. “And so we went a step further to make it a requirement.”