Senator demands fire-safety update

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Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) wants federal regulators to issue an update on the status of fire safety in nursing homes. Grassley sent a letter to the acting director of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, asking for the number of nursing homes still not retrofitted with automatic fire sprinkler systems, and an estimate of when the work would be completed.

Grassley's letter is a follow up to an October 2006 CMS proposed rule that requires nursing homes to have full sprinklering. That rule came on the heels of a 2004 General Accountability Office report that detailed shortcomings in nursing homes' fire-safety preparedness.

The ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Grassley also inquired in a letter dated last Wednesday whether survey and certification requirements had been strengthened, and whether state surveyors or professional firefighters had been engaged to make nursing home checks. He also praised CMS for various fire-safety efforts, including a September 2006 final rule that requires nursing homes to install batter-operated smoke alarms.