Despite fines not kicking in until early June, most nursing homes successfully began reporting newly required COVID-19 data to the federal government this past week.
Each one of the nation’s more than 15,000 facilities faced a May 17 deadline for the first round of data reporting to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
Despite some earlier indications that thousands of buildings had yet to set up accounts through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) portal, CDC official Dr. Jenita Bell on Wednesday congratulated the industry for largely clearing the first hurdle.
“A majority of the nursing homes across the U.S. have successfully enrolled in NHSN, and most of them have actually reported data to us,” Bell said on a call with industry stakeholders. “That’s definitely a milestone that’s worth celebrating.”
Updated data will be due each subsequent Sunday, though nursing homes will not face any formal discipline for not providing the CMS/CDC data until May 31 — and even then, they will only receive warning letters. Fines of $1,000 per week will kick in for those who do not comply during the round due June 7.
Bell also assured providers that the reporting requirement is not designed to be punitive, but instead help the federal and state governments direct resources to the areas they’re needed most.
“CMS is not looking to penalize you, but we’re looking to help you,” Bell said.
The CDC also updated its guidelines for infection prevention in nursing homes in the wake of CMS’s new multi-step plan for gradually reopening facilities to outside visitors, according to CDC epidemiologist Dr. Nimalie Stone.
The information includes new guidance based on each of the phases in CMS’s plan, according to Stone.
Among the changes, Stone emphasized the importance of having a full-time infection control leader at each nursing home.
“We would really encourage facilities to assign and dedicate one individual with infection prevention and control training to be the onsite manager of their COVID prevention and response activities full-time,” Stone said. “I think all of us have seen the incredible amount of work that has to be done in order to maintain a safe environment; handle the surveillance and reporting of COVID infections; communicate with public health; and continue to be up to date with all of the changing testing and cohorting recommendations as we evolve our understanding of this virus.”