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Post-acute and long-term care providers have an additional tool on how to adjust their operations and standards of care during the COVID-19 pandemic or future emergencies. 

The COVID-19 Healthcare Resilience Group on Monday released a new federal report detailing strategies and resources that providers can use to inform their decision making during a crisis.

The group first noted that any changes to standards should happen along a continuum of three levels of care: conventional, when normal amounts of resources are available; contingency, when the demand for resources begins to exceed supply; and crisis, when resources are exceeded by demand or depleted.  

The report also provided an overview of several potential challenges facilities might face during a crisis, such as staffing, supplies and facility space, and how care may shift under any of those circumstances. 

The document stressed the need to ensure that emergency preparedness plans include crisis management protocols, and that any changes to their operations and standards of care comply with federal, state and local regulations to avoid legal ramifications. It also emphasized that standards of care at all levels should adhere to core ethical principles. 

Other suggestions included having strong communication between residents and families as part of any crisis management plan and ensuring staffing models account for increased demands and potential shortages during an emergency.  

The working group is a partnership between multiple federal agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services and Federal Emergency Management Agency. Also linked are healthcare stakeholders, such as AMDA — The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine and the American Association of Post-Acute Care Nursing, which contributed to the report. 

“These standards provide PALTC facilities with strategies they should consider to help guide decision making when their operations must change, which thus changes the standards of care. In an emergency situation, the status quo standards of care may not be achievable. So, in those instances, it’s important to have guidance that covers most impacts,” Alexis Roam, MSN, RN-BC, DNS-CT, QCP, curriculum development specialist for AAPACN, said in a statement. 

“We want to make sure PALTC facilities have everything they need to effectively and efficiently manage during this difficult time and provide the best possible care to residents,” AMDA Executive Director Christopher Laxton added.