Fed rule would roll back infection control requirements at nursing homes

Fed rule would roll back infection control requirements at nursing homes
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A new federal rule proposed last year would lower the amount of time nursing homes would be required to have an infection preventionist work at a facility, triggering criticism it could make homes more dangerous in the coronavirus era. 

The rule would specifically change the time an infection preventionist is required to work from part time to "sufficient time," according to a report Monday in USA Today.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) defended the rule, which was proposed in July 2019, just last week, USA Today wrote. It would also cut the requirement for facility-wide assessments from annually to once every other year.

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The proposed rule would also allow some facilities to bypass a CMS requirement limiting residents to two per room, according to USA Today.

"It makes no sense at all – prior to pandemic, but more so now during a pandemic – to roll back any of the necessary infection and control requirements and the federal regulations," Lindsay Heckler, a supervising attorney at the Center for Elder Law & Justice, a civil legal services agency in Buffalo, N.Y., told the newspaper "They should be strengthening these infection and control requirements."

The virus has killed at least 16,000 residents and staff at long-term care facilities, and CMS has itself acknowledged that infection is “the leading cause of morbidity and mortality” in nursing homes.

The agency defended the rule, telling USA Today that it would allow facilities to determine the necessary time needed to prevent infections, allowing them to go beyond part-time if necessary.

"This is a person-centered approach to care and would allow CMS to hold facilities accountable by having the infection preventionist onsite full time, especially in times of an outbreak," the agency said in a statement last week, according to USA Today.

"At this point, sufficient time for an infection control preventionist in a building means full time," Christopher Laxton, the executive director of The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine, told USA Today. "And it means dedicated to a single building. And being there every day. That's what sufficient means in this context. It may not mean that outside of a COVID pandemic. But it certainly means it now."