The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service’s response to a highly anticipated report by the Coronavirus Commission on Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes has been disappointing for one long-term care provider advocacy group.  

The 186-page report released last week by the commission featured a total of 27 recommendations and more than 100 action steps to aid providers and public health officials in their response to the COVID-19 pandemic and future emergencies. Many of the recommendations centered around testing, personal protective equipment, cohorting, visitation and workforce strategies.

Federal health officials touted the report’s findings and released a corresponding sheet that compared the administration’s action to each recommendation. It also announced guidance for resuming in-person visitation at nursing homes, citing the commission’s report as a “framework” for the move.

Christopher Laxton, executive director, American Medical Directors Association
Christopher Laxton

“CMS seems to be saying that it had already completed all of the necessary steps even before the report was issued — its analysis appears to close the door on taking further action on the report’s many good recommendations,” said Christopher Laxton, executive director of AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

“On the contrary, a great deal of work remains to be done, much of it involving agencies and partners well beyond CMS,” he added.

Michael Wasserman, M.D., medical director at Eisenberg Village, Los Angeles Jewish Home, agreed with AMDA’s assessment of CMS’ reaction. 

“CMS did not really look at the in-depth meaning behind many of the recommendations,” he said. “CMS pointed to some very high-level parts of the document and tried to take credit for actually having done things that, to me, falls very flat when you actually look at the detail.” 

The nursing home commission’s report has solicited a range of opinions from stakeholders, including Wasserman, since its release.

Laxton added that overall the organization is pleased with the report’s recommendations, but “much work still needs to be done by [CMS] and other government agencies to improve nursing home quality in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

“The commission did some excellent work in short order. We were sorry to see that certain things were missing in the final report, mostly dealing with clinical leadership and expert oversight, and the importance of being able to identify facility leaders to aid public health responses, such as through a national medical director registry,” Laxton said. 

“The latter is something the society has been working toward for a long time, and we will continue to push for its creation,” he added.