New fire safety, emergency rules for LTC on their way

The new rules are under review by the White House's Office of Management and Budget
The new rules are under review by the White House's Office of Management and Budget

Two new rules that would update fire safety and emergency preparedness standards for healthcare facilities arrived at the White House for review this week.

The rules, which the Office of Management and Budget began reviewing on Tuesday, would amend safety requirements for any healthcare facility that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding. Entities covered by the rules include long-term care facilities, inpatient hospices and programs of all-inclusive care for the elderly (PACE) operations.

The emergency preparedness rule would require facilities to have plans in place for both natural and manmade disasters that align with Federal, State, regional and local emergency systems.

The rule was first proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2013, spurred by deaths that occurred in hospitals and nursing homes following Hurricane Katrina, many of which HHS estimated could have been prevented had the proposed guidelines been in place. The rule's proposed one-year implementation timeline ruffled the feathers of some providers, who argued that a year wasn't enough time to get the guidelines in place.

The second rule under review by the OMB would update fire safety guidelines for healthcare facilities in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association's 2012 Life Safety Code. The updates include allowing “combustible décor” treated with flame retardant to be hung from walls and doors, and allowing cooking facilities to be open to corridors in order to create a “more home-like setting.”