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CMS prepares healthcare facilities for coronavirus threat

As death toll rises to more than 600 worldwide, agency reinforces infection control responsibilities and guidelines for testing.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

As the number of deaths from the coronavirus rises to 600 and the Coronavirus Task Force today holds a briefing, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued to U.S. healthcare providers and state survey agencies that inspect provider facilities, requirements and safety standards to prevent the spread of the infectious disease.

WHY THIS MATTERS

CMS wants to ensure compliance with current CMS standards so that healthcare facilities and clinical laboratories are prepared to respond to the threat of the 2019-Novel Coronavirus.

Every Medicare participating facility in the nation's healthcare system must adhere to standards for infection prevention and control, CMS said.

A memo provides information on infection control policies and practices and the use of certain laboratory tests.

In addition, CMS urges the review of information provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to aid in self-assessment of infection control and emergency preparedness protocols.

The memo also provides links to training and self-assessment tools for facilities to use as they review their processes and, if necessary, improve their practices.

A new study published by JAMA analyzed data on 138 patients hospitalized with novel coronavirus-infected pneumonia in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus. The data shows that hospital-related transmissions of the disease was suspected in about 41% of patients. Of the 26% of patients admitted to intensive care, 4.3% died.

In a press briefing today, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said there were 12 confirmed cases in the U.S.

The CDC said there were 31,000 cases worldwide and a death toll of more than 600 people. 

One of those who has died was Li Wenliang, a Chinese doctor who reportedly was threatened by the government after he voiced concerns about the new coronavirus.

In Japan, a cruise ship is quarantined at port due to a number of passengers confirmed to have the coronavirus.

THE LARGER TREND

In 2016, CMS established national emergency preparedness requirements to assist providers in planning for natural and man-made disasters and coordinating with federal, state, tribal, regional and local emergency preparedness systems.

The guidance for the Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers emphasized the need for all hazards preparation. 
In February 2019, CMS took additional steps to ensure facilities include planning for infectious diseases within their emergency preparedness program and added "emerging infectious diseases" to the scope of an all-hazards planning approach.

ON THE RECORD

"We are working diligently to ensure surveyors and health care providers across the country understand and comply with critically important guidelines that are designed to stop the spread of infectious diseases and keep patients free from harm," said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

Twitter: @SusanJMorse
Email the writer: susan.morse@himssmedia.com