SNFs may not be able to take on hospital patient overflow during disasters, report on Katrina and Mi

Long-term care providers will be required to install and maintain emergency power systems and strengthen resident elopement procedures under a final emergency preparedness rule released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Thursday.

The rule, first proposed in 2013, is aimed at increasing patient safety and improving response coordination during both natural and manmade disasters. The rule address issues that have been “on the national agenda” in the wake of disasters as Hurricane Sandy, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic and, most recently, serious flooding in Louisiana, CMS officials said.

The rule includes overarching provisions for all healthcare facilities, including creating emergency plans, policies and procedures, having a communication plan, and establishing a training and testing program for emergency protocol.

Long-term care facilities will be held to additional standards under the rule, including having emergency and standby power systems. Long-term care providers will also have to create plans regarding missing residents that could be activated regardless of whether the facility has activated its full-scale emergency plan.

“A missing resident is an emergency and LTC facilities must have a plan to account for or locate the missing resident,” the rule reads.

Facilities will also be required to develop a method of sharing “appropriate” information from the emergency plan with residents and their families or representatives. Long-term care providers that are part of a larger healthcare system will also have additional provisions to follow if they wish to participate in the system’s emergency preparedness program.

One lost life is too many, said CMS Deputy Administrator and Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway, M.D.

“Situations like the recent flooding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, remind us that in the event of an emergency, the first priority of healthcare providers and suppliers is to protect the health and safety of their patients,” he said. “Preparation, planning, and one comprehensive approach for emergency preparedness is key.”

The rule is slated for publication in the Federal Register on Sept. 16, and will become effective on Nov. 15.