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CMS to exclusively focus surveys on infection control, other serious safety threats

CMS announced this week that, effective immediately, state survey agencies and accrediting organizations will suspend all non-emergency inspections across the country to allow inspectors to turn their focus toward infection control and other serious threats to safety, such as abuse. This change is in direct response to the threat COVID-19 spread.

CMS is also issuing three memoranda to state survey agencies, state survey agency directors and accrediting organizations to inspect thousands of Medicare-participating healthcare providers across the country, including nursing homes and hospitals.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma stated in the announcement that “all healthcare providers must immediately review their procedures to ensure compliance with CMS’ infection control requirements, as well as the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “

Surveys are to be limited to the following, in order of priority:

  • All immediate jeopardy complaints (a situation in which entity noncompliance has placed the health and safety of recipients in its care at risk for serious injury, serious harm, serious impairment or death or harm) and allegations of abuse and neglect;
  • Complaints alleging infection control concerns, including facilities with potential COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses;
  • Statutorily required recertification surveys (Nursing Home, Home Health, Hospice, and ICF/IID facilities);
  • Any re-visits necessary to resolve current enforcement actions;
  • Initial certifications;
  • Surveys of facilities/hospitals that have a history of infection control deficiencies at the immediate jeopardy level in the last three years;
  • Surveys of facilities/hospitals/dialysis centers that have a history of infection control deficiencies at lower levels than immediate jeopardy.

Specific survey protocol for COVID-19 suspected or confirmed cases has also been shared with surveyors and include working with local health officials, CMS and the CDC. CMS is also posting FAQs in real time.

Facilities with active or suspected cases of COVID-19 should refer to Attachment A of the release.

The report also includes checklists for infection prevention, control and immunizations in Attachment B of the release.