McKnight's Long-Term Care News, March 2019, page 3, Seema Verma

After nearly five months, federal officials have disclosed that they are resuming routine inspections for all Medicare- and Medicaid-certified providers and suppliers. 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued the memo late Monday afternoon. The agency had previously suspended certain routine inspections in response to the COVID-19 pandemic to prioritize infection control and Immediate Jeopardy situations. 

“These surveys fortified healthcare facilities around the country to prepare for and implement actions to prevent transmission of the virus and provided indispensable insight into the situation on the ground,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “As CMS resumes some survey and enforcement activities that were previously put on hold, the health and safety of America’s patients will always be our top priority.”

In the memo, federal investigators were directed to resume onsite revisit, non-Immediate Jeopardy and annual recertification surveys “as soon as resources are available.” The agency also announced additional guidance for state survey agencies on resolving enforcement cases that were previously held. 

“The agency will also temporarily expand the desk review policy, when state surveyors ensure that facilities return back into compliance with federal requirements without an onsite survey, to include all noncompliance reviews except for immediate jeopardy citations that have not been removed,” the release stated. 

On Friday, CMS disclosed that it has levied more than $15 million in fines and tripled the most severe type of citations to nursing homes during the six months of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 3,400 nursing homes have been cited for noncompliance with infection control requirements or failure to report COVID-19 data, the agency said last week.

Friday’s announcement came a day after CMS Administrator Seema Verma held a special conference call and noted an alarming rise in COVID-19 nationally and in facilities.

“Our deep concern is that even in nursing homes that are doing testing on a regular basis that we’re still seeing significant spread,” she said. She explained that federal strike teams and Quality Improvement Organizations (QIOs) are seeing “significant deficiencies in infection control practices.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.