Here are the latest need-to-know updates for Monday, September 8, regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.
LeadingAge Ohio met with officials from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and other Administration officials this morning to continue its advocacy related to the conflicting state and federal guidance on nursing home testing. Ohio Department of Aging Director Ursel McElroy, who has assumed leadership on testing in congregate care settings, noted that a team was working “feverishly” on this issue, and hopes to release guidance on this point “very soon.”
In response to questions related to how providers should document their efforts to obtain testing, ODH confirmed that providers should keep a record of their efforts to secure timely testing from state and private labs, test kits from suppliers, whether or not they have the point of care devices, their efforts to reach out to local health departments, and other steps taken. These records should include dated emails to and from labs, suppliers, and local health departments, and when all other avenues fail, a letter to the Ohio Department of Health outlining their efforts. ODH has promised to provide a dedicated email for that communication, to ensure consistency in the state’s response to providers; LeadingAge Ohio will share the email once ODH has provided it.
Survey updates from ODH
During the same meeting, staff of the ODH Bureau of Survey & Certification announced they have re-initiated long-term care surveys, including residential care facilities (RCF) complaint and annual surveys. They’ve also begun to work through the backlog of nursing home complaint surveys. ODH shared that they are limiting the number of staff used for any survey, opting instead for a longer survey process with fewer staff rather than sending in more surveyors to shorten the survey. Surveyors will also complete what activities they can off-site, including exit interviews.
They have also resumed complaint surveys for non-long-term care, but not yet standard surveys. They noted they would advise LeadingAge Ohio in advance of resuming other surveys.
ODH has previously noted that it is awaiting guidance from the CMS regional office on the state’s proposal to modify the standard survey process in light of the current public health emergency. This week, they learned that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Quality, Survey and Oversight division (QSO) is exploring changes to the survey process to promote resident, surveyor and staff safety, and evaluating which survey activities can be completed remotely. It is yet uncertain whether the CMS guidance will be written or shared on a stakeholder call. ODH staff reiterated their concerns that given the current pandemic, surveys cannot be completed safely without significant modifications of how surveys are completed. They also confirmed that they are working towards establishing a process and cadence of testing for state surveyors, in response to LeadingAge Ohio’s advocacy on this topic.
LeadingAge Ohio meets with the Administration multiple times per week to elevate concerns members have communicated to us and/or have raised via the COVID-19 mailbox. LeadingAge Ohio encourages members to forward pressing concerns to the mailbox, to make sure your needs are being advanced.
LeadingAge reminded members today to join Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma and Trump Administration officials for a National Nursing Home COVID-19 Call tonight, Tuesday, September, 8 from 6:30 – 7:30 PM.
The call will cover new COVID-19 testing and reporting requirements. Speakers include Administrator Verma, the CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett P. Giroir, MD, and CMS Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lee Fleisher.
Dial in information:
Participant line (muted): (833) 614-0820
Conference ID: 6353368
Conference lines are limited, so CMS encourages participants to join via webcast.
As reported in a recent McKnight's article, providers now have the ability to look up how often they will be required to test staff using Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services county data. This follows an August announcement that nursing homes would begin mandatory staff testing based on county-level Covidity rates on a week by week basis.
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has created a useful tool to help providers and practitioners decide when to follow up antigen testing with a confirmatory PCR test. This is also included in LeadingAge’s Antigen Testing A to Z tool that was highlighted last week.
LeadingAge shares the latest coronavirus news and resources with members twice each weekday. This morning's update featured a new report titled "Making Care Pay Work" and updated information about the Act for Older Adults campaign.
Check out the full report here.
Please send all questions to COVID19@leadingageohio.org. Additionally, members are encouraged to visit the LeadingAge Ohio COVID-19 Working Group facebook group to pose questions to peers and share best practices. LeadingAge is continuing its daily calls for all members. To participate in these daily online updates, members should register here.
LeadingAge Ohio is working to ensure that the information in our daily alerts, on our website, and all coronavirus-related communications is as accurate as possible. However, LeadingAge Ohio makes no guarantees about the accuracy of the information.