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DOH Holds Pandemic and Infection Control Webinar for Nursing Homes

On Nov. 30, 2020, the Department of Health (DOH) held a webinar for nursing homes covering a wide range of issues related to the pandemic and infection control. DOH indicated that they are considering holding these webinars routinely but did not provide specific details.

One of the primary issues covered was the COVID-19 Infection Control Focused Survey being conducted by DOH survey staff. To date, over 1,500 of these surveys have been conducted. All nursing homes, as mandated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), were required to have at least one COVID-19 survey. Subsequent surveys have been driven by the facility submission of National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) and Health Emergency Response Data System (HERDS) data as well as increased positivity in certain geographic areas and newly reported cases.

Survey staff have cited deficiencies in a number of nursing homes for what appear to be breakdowns in basic infection control protocols. Notable is the improper donning and doffing of personal protective equipment (PPE), lack of hand hygiene, and inadequate environmental cleaning and disinfecting. DOH has recommended frequent on-unit team meetings and huddles to reinforce facility education and good infection control practices.

DOH will continue to expect the submission of the HERDS report daily, seven days a week, by 1 p.m. Reminders to complete the survey are no longer provided, and late submissions will result in a citation. Currently, 98 percent of facilities provide timely submission of the data. Additional information on PPE is being considered for inclusion in the daily HERDS report.

Nursing homes were reminded of the requirement to maintain a 60-day supply of PPE. Due to increases in positivity rates in certain areas, additional PPE may be required. Nursing homes should review their storage, supply, and replenishment policies and practices.

As of Sept. 15, 2020, all nursing homes are required to post their Pandemic Emergency Plan (PEP) on their facility website. DOH discussed the required elements of the PEP and the need to maintain ongoing communication with families during the pandemic. DOH is reviewing some issues around the return of a resident following hospitalization for COVID-19 and plans to issue guidance related to this shortly. (Although not discussed on the webinar, LeadingAge NY expects PEPs to be routinely reviewed during survey.)

Lastly, DOH discussed testing, including outbreak testing. DOH stressed the need to involve the Medical Director during an outbreak, the need for close monitoring, and the use of pulse oximeters.

Contact: Elliott Frost, efrost@leadingageny.org, 518-441-8761