Skilled nursing facilities in California now must report all disease-related and suspected disease-related deaths to the state’s Department of Public Health within 24 hours during declared public health emergencies thanks to a new law. 

The regulation, A.B. 2644, was signed into law early this week by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). It also mandates that providers notify residents and their representatives about cases of communicable diseases. 

Providers shouldn’t be too concerned about the new regulation, according to the California Association of Health Facilities. The association said the new law is expected to have “a limited impact” since long-term care providers are already required to report deaths to local and state public health officials. It added that the bill “clarifies the need to report COVID deaths, or deaths during a declared emergency.” 

LeadingAge California added that the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Jim Wood (D), reached out to the group early in the legislative process and it agreed on the “importance of codifying some of the current reporting requirements the Department of Public Health requires to protect resident and staff safety.” 

“In the future, when an emergency is declared, the Department of Public Health will be able to move more nimbly and gather important data on any communicable disease outbreak,” Eric Dowdy, chief government affairs officer for LeadingAge California, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Thursday. 

Additionally, the new law also requires SNFs to have a  full-time, dedicated infection preventionist, who is either a registered nurse or a licensed vocational nurse, on staff, and to have a plan in place for infection prevention quality control. It also requires that SNFs ensure all healthcare personnel receive infection prevention and control training on an annual basis.

“Since most buildings are already required to have someone designated as an IP, this will also have limited impact on skilled nursing providers. We did not oppose this legislation,” CAHF added.