- On Friday, March 13, 2020, the President declared a national emergency, which triggers the Secretary’s ability to authorize waivers or modifications of certain requirements pursuant to section 1135 of the Social Security Act (the Act). Under section 1135(b)(5) of the Act, CMS is prioritizing surveys by authorizing modification of timetables and deadlines for the performance of certain required activities, delaying revisit surveys, and generally exercising enforcement discretion for three weeks.
- During this three-week time frame, only the following types of surveys will be prioritized and conducted:
- Complaint/facility-reported incident surveys: State survey agencies (SSAs) will conduct surveys related to complaints and facility-reported incidents (FRIs) that are triaged at the Immediate Jeopardy (IJ) level. A streamlined Infection Control review tool will also be utilized during these surveys, regardless of the Immediate Jeopardy allegation.
- Targeted Infection Control Surveys: Federal CMS and State surveyors will conduct targeted Infection Control surveys of providers identified through collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). They will use a streamlined review checklist to minimize the impact on provider activities, while ensuring providers are implementing actions to protect the health and safety of individuals to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Self-assessments: The Infection Control checklist referenced above will also be shared with all providers and suppliers to allow for voluntary self-assessment of their Infection Control plan and protections
- During the prioritization period, the following surveys will not be authorized: Standard surveys for long term care facilities (nursing homes), hospitals, home health agencies (HHAs), intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICF/IIDs), and hospices. This includes the life safety code and Emergency Preparedness elements of those standard surveys; and revisits that are not associated with IJ.
- Furthermore, for Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA), we intend to prioritize immediate jeopardy situations over recertification surveys, and generally intend to use enforcement discretion, unless immediate jeopardy situations arise.
- Finally, initial certification surveys will continue to be authorized in accordance within current guidance and prioritization.
Additional Instructions for Nursing Homes
We are disseminating the Infection Control survey developed by CMS and CDC so facilities can educate themselves on the latest practices and expectations. We expect facilities to use this new process, in conjunction with the latest guidance from CDC, to perform a voluntary self-assessment of their ability to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. This document may be requested by surveyors, if an onsite investigation takes place. We also encourage nursing homes to voluntarily share the results of this assessment with their state or local health department Healthcare-Associated Infections (HAI) Program. Contact information for each state’s health departments is identified on the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC’s) website at:https://www.cdc.gov/HAI/state-based/index.html.
Furthermore, we remind facilities that they are required to have a system of surveillance designed to identify possible communicable diseases or infections before they can spread to other persons in the facility, and when and to whom possible incidents of communicable disease or infections should be reported (42 CFR 483.80(a)(2)(i) and (ii)). CDC recommends that nursing homes notify their health department about residents with severe respiratory infection, or a cluster of respiratory illness (e.g., > or = 3 residents or HCP with new-onset respiratory symptoms within 72 hours). Local and state reporting guidelines or requirements may vary. Monitor the CDC website for information and resources to help prevent the introduction and spread of COVID-19 in nursing homes (CDC Preparing for COVID-19: Long-term Care Facilities, Nursing Homes:https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/healthcare-facilities/prevent-spread-in-long-term-care-facilities.html ).
We urge providers to review the tools and implement actions to protect the health and safety of individuals to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.