Providers may be eager for a federal changes that would ease up on emergency preparation regulations, but patient advocates warned of fallout that may include putting residents at risk.
A wide-ranging proposal from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in September, was aimed at cutting red tape and easing burdens for providers. Changes spelled out in this fact sheet include only requiring facilities to conduct one testing exercise, instead of two, and eliminating the “duplicative requirement” that an emergency plan document efforts to contact local, state and federal emergency prep officials.
With the deadline to comment on the proposal Monday, nursing home industry leaders said they have mixed feelings on CMS’ suggestions. Ruth Katz, senior vice president of public policy and advocacy for LeadingAge, noted that the proposal includes four small changes to the current rule, only two of which it supports.
The association favors not requiring an annual review of the emergency preparedness plan, separate from the annual testing requirements, and it also supports adding flexibility to the way annual testing is conducted, she told McKnight’s. However, LeadingAge believes that documenting required contacts with the community should be retained “as a reasonable way to ensure information is up to date and that everyone has the same information.” It also supports annual training for staff, “to ensure that all staff are prepared in advance of an emergency.”
“We appreciate that CMS is looking for ways to reduce the burden on nursing homes,” Katz added.
Consumer advocacy groups Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care and Justice in Aging both expressed their opposition to the changes, saying they are “extremely concerned that the proposed revisions would make nursing homes less ready when disaster strikes and subject residents to greater danger, even death.”
Both said the idea is ill-timed, given last year’s deaths at the Hollywood Hills nursing facility following Hurricane Irma. A subsequent report from Democratic senators released earlier this month accused long-term care of being unprepared for disasters.