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DOH Discusses Changes in HERDS Survey, Workforce Challenges, and Reminders of Visitation Requirements

LeadingAge NY participated in a call with the Department of Health (DOH) regarding nursing home issues on Aug. 17th. During the call, DOH officials expressed appreciation for all of providers' work during the course of the pandemic. They also acknowledged the staffing challenges that are being experienced throughout the field, and feedback was provided about how the Department could assist with workforce challenges and alleviate some of the stress providers are experiencing. Implementation of the nursing home staffing legislation passed this past session, need for funding, and support for financially distressed organizations are just some of the examples of issues discussed. Also noted was the need to reduce the frequency of the daily Health Emergency Response Data System (HERDS) survey, which takes resources away from resident care and operations.

DOH did note that nursing homes will see a decrease in the personal protective equipment (PPE) questions on the daily HERDS survey early next week. The Department reported that at this time, all nursing homes have downloaded their PPE data to be in compliance with the revised standards for the PPE stockpile requirement. With this new requirement, nursing homes will be reporting their inventory amount, and the daily burn rate and days of supply remaining will be removed from the survey. It was noted that some people had difficulty accessing the data because the roles in the Health Commerce System (HCS) were not populated or accurate; thus, DOH reminds providers to check this information and have their HCS Coordinator update the information as it changes.

DOH reminds nursing homes that visitation is aligned with Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) guidance. Residents should be able to have visitors with few exceptions. DOH also reminds providers of compassionate care visits, which are generally allowed when visitation is not otherwise permissible. DOH is receiving multiple complaints regarding visitation right now. Many of these issues relate to a misunderstanding of the guidance or a miscommunication. When DOH receives a complaint, they reach out to the nursing home and clarify the guidance. Members are reminded that the Ombudsman should also have access to the facility, unless screening indicates they have COVID-19 symptoms.

DOH also reported that quarantine is not recommended for residents to go out for less than 24 hours. Providers are encouraged to try to ensure that everyone is following infection prevention/control recommendations. Residents are allowed to go out, and quarantine is not necessarily recommended after return.

DOH is working on guidance regarding the vaccination mandate for health care workers announced by the Governor on Aug. 16th. DOH will also be meeting with pharmacies regarding the new recommendations for certain populations to receive a third vaccine dose, discussed elsewhere in this issue of Intelligence. We will share more information with members as we receive it.

Contact: Diane Darbyshire, ddarbyshire@leadingageny.org, 518-867-8828