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 Nursing Homes See Opportunity in New CMS COVID-19 Training Program

Nursing home advocates praised a new national nursing home training program for frontline nursing home staff and nursing home management to battle COVID-19 that was launched on Aug. 26 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

The training, called “CMS Targeted COVID-19 Training for Frontline Nursing Home Staff & Management,” is available on the CMS Quality, Safety & Education Portal. Participants will receive a certificate upon completion of the program, which consists of five specific modules designed for frontline clinical staff and 10 designed for nursing home management.

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) said it appreciates the administration’s efforts in establishing the training, but noted that “evidence clearly shows that even the best nursing homes with the most rigorous standards cannot stop this highly contagious and invisible virus.”

AHCA/NCAL said the focus should also be on getting a handle on the amount of spread in the surrounding community and prioritizing nursing homes for ongoing resources.

“When less people in the community have COVID-19, it is less likely to end up in a nursing home. When providers have the necessary personal protective equipment, reliable testing with rapid results, and staff support, they can better curb the spread,” the association said.

“We must foster a more collaborative approach to addressing this once-in-a-century, global crisis. Nursing homes cannot beat this pandemic alone, and providers need the support of public health officials to prioritize our residents and help facilities acquire the necessary resources.”

In addition to the training program, CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will also have subject matter experts available on bi-weekly webinars from Aug. 27 through Jan. 7, 2021, from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. (ET) to answer questions. Participants must register for these question and answer sessions on the Zoom webinar registration page here.
 
At the time of the 
original announcement about the training in July, CMS noted that providers would be required to participate in an online infection control training program to be eligible for enhanced funding. Based on the latest announcement, participation in this training currently is voluntary and not tied to any funding.

Nonetheless, AHCA/NCAL said it encourages all providers to take advantage of these courses as they are developed based on challenges and findings CMS and CDC strike teams have found when visiting nursing homes with outbreaks.
 
For more information about the training, click 
here. While registering for the training is not required, AHCA/NCAL encourages providers to do so. 

In other developments, AHCA/NCAL said CMS has issued a QSO memo 20-38 that outlines details on how to comply with new interim final rule 483.80(h) requiring COVID-19 testing of staff. AHCA/NCAL has summarized the guidance, but recommends that providers read the entire QSO memo as the regulation goes into effect as soon as the interim final rule is published in the Federal Register.

The highlights of the QSO memo include that CMS is requiring facilities to conduct three types of testing: 

--Symptomatic Testing: Test any staff or residents who have signs or symptoms of COVID-19 (facility must continue screening all staff, residents, and other visitors).

--Outbreak Testing: Test all staff and residents in response to an outbreak (defined as any single new infection in staff or any nursing home onset infection in a resident) and continue to test all staff and residents that tested negative every three to seven days until 14 days has passed since the most recent positive result. 

--Routine Testing: Test all staff based on the extent of the virus in the community, using CMS’ published county positivity rate in the prior week as the trigger for staff testing frequency.

CMS will publish reports of COVID-19 county-level positivity rates at https://data.cms.gov/stories/s/COVID-19-Nursing-Home-Data/bkwz-xpvg

CMS has also provided requirements related to the following, which are further explained in AHCA/NCAL’s summary here

--Types of tests 

--Definition of facility staff

--Documenting issues with test supplies and shortages 

--Dealing with refusals by residents or staff 

--Reporting requirements

--Documenting test results 

--Conducting tests 

--Documenting/demonstrating compliance

CMS also has issued a QSO memo 20-37 that describes the survey frequency and citations and fines for not complying with regulations related to antigen testing. AHCA/NCAL’s summary is available here.

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