CMS issues automatic sprinkler proposal for facilities

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has proposed a requirement that all long-term care facilities be fully equipped with approved, supervised automatic sprinkler systems.

The proposal, "Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Fire Safety Requirements, for Long-Term Care Facilities, Automatic Sprinkler Systems," also mandates regular testing, inspection and maintenance of these systems. Currently, some older, unimproved facilities are allowed to use battery-operated smoke alarms.

Providers praised the proposed rule. The regulation recognizes that an "appropriate phase-in timeframe for the installation of an automatic sprinkler system" is needed to allow substantial planning and installation time, according to Bruce Yarwood, president of the American Health Care Association. CMS said additional installation costs could cost the nursing community about $700 million over the next five to 10 years.

The proposed rule appeared in Friday's Federal Register. CMS will receive comments on it until Dec. 26.