The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service is currently investigating whether it should require surveyors and ombudsmen to be subject to similar COVID-19 testing mandates as nursing home workers, a top health official revealed Monday. 

Adm. Brett P. Giroir, M.D.

“It’s under active consideration right now. I can’t get ahead of CMS. Your idea is noted and they’re well aware and considering options,” Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said Tuesday during LeadingAge’s coronavirus update call with nursing home providers. 

“The issue about surveyors and other people coming into nursing homes, when I got the questions, I did raise this with CMS directly,” he added. 

CMS in late August announced that nursing homes will be required to test staff members for COVID-19, with the frequency of that testing being based on the disease’s prevalence within the surrounding community.

Giroir’s comments came in response to a question on if the federal government would consider similar mandates for hospital workers, nursing home inspectors, ombudsmen and other workers who frequent long-term care facilities. LeadingAge late last week sent letters to CMS urging that healthcare stakeholders who regularly come into contact with skilled nursing residents should also have similar testing mandates as providers.

“We are confounded by what seems to be an inconsistency in testing policy and approach,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan wrote in a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

Giroir added that “there are clear recommendations for testing in hospitals.” 

“In a hospital that uses appropriate [personal protective equipment], the actual rates of disease in hospital workers are less than that in the community,” he said. “I think hospitals are a different situation and a well-resourced situation.” 

Giroir also addressed the distribution progress of Abbott BinaxNOW rapid tests for nursing homes and other long-term care facilities during Monday’s call. He said in the first week of shipments 7,600 nursing homes got 2.2 million tests and in the second week, about 7,800 facilities received about 1.69 million tests.

Additionally, just under 1.5 million have been delivered to assisted living facilities in the last two weeks, while about a 250,000 have been shipped to home health and hospice agencies. 

Giroir explained that if there are nursing homes [and assisted living facilities] that believe they’re in a ‘red’ or ‘yellow’ county and have not received their Binax test, [they can email] hhsbinax@hhs.gov.” 

For additional coverage from the call, check out our sister website McKnight’s Senior Living and our Clinical Daily News section.