Stricter infection control and emergency preparedness regulations could be on the horizon for skilled nursing and other long-term care providers if the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services grants a request by a group of Democratic lawmakers. 

An infection preventionist is critical to manage COVID-19 in nursing homes, the CDC says.

New Jersey Reps. Bill Pascrell Jr. and Mike Sherrill and Sen. Bob Menendez on Monday called on CMS to impose tougher rules on providers, specifically asking the agency to publicly post aggregate infection control deficiencies and staffing information for facilities. 

The lawmakers also want the agency to codify reporting requirements developed for the COVID-19 crisis and broaden them to include any other type of infectious disease outbreak. 

Additionally, their letter to Acting Administrator Liz Richter suggested CMS restore an Obama-era rule that required facilities to have a dedicated infection preventionist on staff. Phase 3 of the Requirements of Participation, which went into effect in Nov. 2019 without detailed guidance, allows the infection preventionist to be part time and doesn’t set a specific number of hours. 

The lawmakers recently proposed legislation that would prohibit the federal government from reducing the survey frequency for skilled nursing facilities and from waiving staffing data submission requirements. They argued that would be “a critical step in closing several gaps and inadequacies in long-term care facilities that exacerbated the impact of COVID-19 on one of our most vulnerable populations.” 

“We stand ready to work with you to promote safety and quality care and to bring necessary oversight to long-term care facilities in order to protect residents and workers,” the lawmakers wrote.