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 AHCA/NCAL, LT/PAC Providers Discuss Coronavirus with Vice President Pence, CMS

Long term and post-acute care providers (LT/PAC) led by David Gifford, MD, senior vice president, quality and regulatory affairs, and chief medical officer of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), met with Vice President Mike Pence and top U.S. health officials to review strategies on the coronavirus outbreak that has now taken 11 lives in the United States.

Frail and elderly individuals are some of the most susceptible to catching the virus, which is officially known as COVID-19. The threat prompted the skilled nursing and assisted living profession, along with the White House task force on the coronavirus and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), to huddle on the issue.

The meeting also occurred after coronavirus-related deaths were tied to a skilled nursing center outside of Seattle.

“We’re very pleased that the administration is stepping up to help us in this cause,” said Mark Parkinson, president and chief executive officer (CEO) at an AHCA/NCAL press briefing late Wednesday.

At the briefing, Parkinson discussed two new updates from CMS aimed at stopping the spread of the virus, including a new focus from State Survey Agencies and Accrediting Organizations to focus their facility inspections exclusively on issues related to infection control and other serious health and safety threats—beginning with nursing centers and hospitals. The official announcement came later in the day and is effective immediately.

CMS also shared during the White House meeting that it is issuing clearer guidance on the screening of residents, employees, and visitors to nursing facilities. The new guidance will support excluding visitors from facilities.

“It’s really helpful to learn that CMS will be addressing some of the visitors, because some of them have been quite reluctant to comply,” said Janet Snipes, executive director of Holly Heights Nursing Center in Denver, who attended the AHCA press briefing.

Holly Heights, a center with 125 residents with an average age of 88, has, per federal standards, already developed its emergency preparedness plan and an infection control plan and operationalized the plans based on COVID-19. One of the areas of focus, said Snipes, has been the facility’s implementation of a travel screen and respiratory signs and symptoms screen that visitors fill out as they arrive in the facility and then, based on their answers, the center may choose to restrict their visit.

In addition to the health and safety of residents, cough etiquette, handwashing hygiene, and education to others on what respiratory symptoms to look for are among areas of focus for providers.

The prudent use of supplies and supply chain issues are others. Randy Bury, president and CEO of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, based in Sioux Falls, S.D., said that a concern that he has is that in some parts of the country there are stockpiles of supplies like gowns and masks that have been purchased, while in other areas there is a lower number of supplies. Assistance with distribution of supplies may be needed in the future, he said.

“We have the resources available that we can pull if needed, and CMS pledged its support on this and will deal with this issue as it comes,” he said. “We feel very good about the response, and it was a conversation around a common goal.”

Among the group joining Gifford in the Pence meeting were Deborah Meade, AHCA Board of Governors chair and Health Management owner; Randy Bury, president and CEO of the Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society, Sioux Falls, S.D.; Steve Flatt, president, National HealthCare Corp.; and Barry Port, CEO, Ensign Group.

A link to AHCA/NCAL’s March 3 webinar updating the profession’s response to the coronavirus is at:

https://educate.ahcancal.org/p/COVID19 .

For additional information and resources on the virus, visit www.ahcancal.org/coronavirus. Anyone with questions can email them to COVID19@ahca.org. 

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