Report: Special COVID-19 Nursing Home Call with Seema Verma – Thursday, August 13, 2020

Mary Madison, RN, RAC-CT, CDP
Clinical Consultant – Briggs Healthcare

This special CMS call concluded a few minutes ago.  It was an SOS call, if you will – you could sense the gravity and seriousness by the tone of the introduction and throughout the call.  Seema Verma, CMS Administrator, began the call by say that CMS is “deeply concerned” about COVID-19 spread in nursing homes, noting that the “situation nationally has escalated.”  She cited that there were over 12,000 cases at the end of July and deaths in NHs were increasing.  Here are some other key points made by Administrator Verma before she turned the call over to 2 physicians (sorry, I didn’t catch their names):

  • Nursing Homes are now CMS’ priority…this is a deep concern as there is significant spread.
  • 50% of NHs have experienced cases.
  • Rapid spread and very contagious; this is very concerning.
  • Upcoming call with Governors on Monday, August 17th to address this dangerous situation.  The status of COVID-19 in LTC was discussed at length yesterday with the National NH Commission. 
  • FEMA is on high alert to provide supplies and tracking.
  • Manufacturers have been asked by CMS to direct all Point-of-Care test to nursing homes.
  • Every NH should have a plan to test staff; residents as needed.
  • Continue to see significant deficiencies in Infection Prevention practices; seeing issues in getting IP messages to front line staff.
  • Even if you have 1 or 2 cases, in a matter of hours ½ of your NH could be impacted.
  • COVID-naïve facilities should not be complacent!
  • Look at your facility’s emergency plan – are you prepared?  What do you do if your management staff get sick – this has happened in many facilities.

I was able to record the last portion of this special call – the section that included comments from 2 physicians, including CMS’ Medical Director.  You can listen to that portion of the recording below.

Both physicians provided excellent messages about screening, training, PPE, testing, empowering all providers, etc. to point out IP breaches, actions that can be taken today – all to keep COVID out of your facilities.  “We all have to be responsible together…we have to learn our way through this and not just rely on testing.”  This was a call to arms to prevent the spread of COVID within your nursing home as well as to other nursing homes. 

Administrator Verma asked Mark Parkinson (AHCA/NCAL) to say a few words but there seemed to be difficulty in reaching Mark, so he did not speak.

In conclusion, Verma stated that CMS is here to support LTC – whatever you need, CMS is here to help.  Communication of your needs is important. 

This call will likely be posted in a few days so you will be able to listen to it in its entirety.  I’ll post the link to that recording as soon as its available.   It was noted that CMS will continue these NH calls in the future.

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