While operating a skilled nursing facility in this uncertain and difficult time is a monumental undertaking, it can be accomplished by using the given tools available through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and your state department of health.
In 2016, operators of nursing facilities were made aware of additional regulations to be phased in beginning 2017, 2018 and 2019. Among those additional regulations was F-Tag 882 for the Infection Preventionist. This regulation requires not only identification of a designated person to spearhead the Infection Prevention program, but also that individual must complete the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Infection Preventionist Course specifically written for nursing homes.
Then comes March 2020 and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. This pandemic has been brutal on the nursing home industry in a variety of ways. The virus has been most devastating to people 65 and older, along with individuals with co-morbid conditions such as cardiac complications and pre-existing pulmonary issues. These conditions should not come as a surprise to any nursing home staff as nursing home staff often care for individuals with these presenting complications and are identified as high risk in almost any widespread bacterial or viral infection.
Why is COVID-19 so destructive in nursing homes?
The simple answer is the industry was only beginning the preparation that was necessary to identify, quarantine and fight this deadly virus. Most providers had identified an Infection Preventionist in order to mount a defense plan against COVID-19 and widespread infectious diseases; however, additional time was needed to establish individual plans and properly educate all staff. The CDC Infection Preventionist course includes valuable tools on how to surveil, assess, educate, and establish a plan to keep residents safe and is an education piece that will prove valuable to all providers.
Here are some key points to consider while reviewing and maintaining your facility’s Infection Prevention program:
- If your facility has not yet identified an Infection Preventionist, do so immediately.
- Afford your Infection Preventionist time to work through the CDC’s Infection Prevention course.
- Provide the identified Infection Preventionist with the tools and input necessary to assemble a viable infection control plan based on the population of residents in your facility.
- Utilize the tools provided throughout the course to establish a solid education plan for front-line staff in terms they understand and can apply daily when caring for residents.
- Individualize the education specific to each department within your facility.
- Assess your stock of personal protective equipment (PPE) and adjust as necessary to prepare for the anticipated second wave of COVID-19.
- Involve the Medical Director at every level of implementation of the infection control plan.
LW Consulting, Inc. is ready and available to assist you in development of your infection control plan, education of your staff and review of policies related to your Infection Prevention program.
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