A national commission tasked with reviewing nursing homes’ response to the coronavirus crisis has delivered a draft of its recommendations to the federal government. 

The private contractor selected to run the program, MITRE, told McKnight’s earlier this week that the final report will be delivered to CMS Tuesday (Sept. 1), as originally scheduled. 

The Wall Street Journal gave a general update on the Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes on Friday, as did the Washington Post, which also described the process the panel used. A spokeswoman with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services acknowledged the media reports on Wednesday.

“We can confirm that the CMS Center for Clinical Standards and Quality (CCSQ) received some preliminary information from the Commission,” the spokeswoman told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News

The commission’s draft report contains recommendations based on seven themes, one commissioner told McKnight’s on Wednesday adding that the panel last met two weeks ago and is not scheduled to convene again.

The commissioner predicted that although members got along well and seemed to come to many agreements despite traditional differences of opinion heading into the meetings, there would be dissension when a final report is released. The commissioner expressed frustration that despite the panel’s “independent” label, administration representatives apparently closely monitored convenings, and commission recommendations were repeatedly reined in to conform to CMS preferences or powers. 

Although at least one commissioner expressed skepticism to McKnight’s on Wednesday that much would actively come from the “watered down” wish list submitted. Another, however, thought the panel’s work would be fruitful.

“I think many of the recommended action steps will reduce the spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities and be meaningful to residents from a quality of life standpoint,” the latter commissioner said.

The CMS spokeswoman said Wednesday that CMS Administrator Seema Verma had not seen nor been briefed on any recommendations because the commission’s work was still in progress. The representative added that to protect the integrity of the process, Verma won’t be briefed until CMS receives the commission’s final recommendations.

“The Trump administration established the Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes to independently and comprehensively assess the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and offer actionable recommendations to inform future responses to infectious disease outbreaks within nursing homes. It would be inappropriate to publicly comment about any draft documents until the commission has formally submitted its final recommendations to CMS,” the spokeswoman said. 

Calls for more PPE, comprehensive national strategy 

The draft calls for the federal government to ensure all nursing homes have at least a three-month supply of personal protective equipment and address staffing issues, which could include providing funding for hazard pay, according to the Wall Street Journal report. 

The commission is also pushing for the development of a national strategy that guarantees all providers have access to rapid-results testing. The report noted the drafted recommendations could change before the final report is delivered. 

Members of the nursing home commission were announced in June by MITRE. Panelists stressed that deep collaboration and shared accountability should be goals for the commission as they address the public health crisis and its impact on nursing homes.