CMS updates regulations on the health and safety of nursing homes

July 5, 2022

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued updates to guidance on minimum health and safety standards that Long-Term Care (LTC) facilities (often called “nursing homes”) must meet to participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

CMS also updated and developed new guidance in the State Operations Manual (SOM) to address issues that significantly affect residents of LTC facilities. The surveyors who use these resources to perform both routine and complaint-based inspections of nursing homes are responsible for determining whether facilities are complying with CMS’ requirements.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted, we have a pressing moral responsibility to ensure that residents of long-term care facilities are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

To begin helping address the staffing issue while the rulemaking process is underway, CMS added new requirements for surveyors to incorporate the use of Payroll Based Journal staffing data for their inspections. This will help better identify potential noncompliance with CMS’s nurse staffing requirements, such as lack of a registered nurse for eight hours each day, or lack of licensed nursing for 24 hours a day. This guidance will help to uncover instances of insufficient staffing and yield higher quality care.

With emerging infectious diseases such as COVID-19, CMS believes that the role of the Infection Preventionist (IP) is critical in the facility’s efforts to mitigate the onset and spread of infections. Using lessons learned from the pandemic, CMS is providing further guidance requiring each facility to have an IP who has specialized training to effectively oversee the facility’s infection prevention and control program.

The updated guidance clarifies CMS’s expectations for ensuring timely investigations. This will help address findings from the Government Accountability Office which noted variation among states in reporting, tracking and processing reports of abuse and neglect.

The updates also contain improvements to CMS guidance for mental health and substance use disorder, and builds upon the agency’s Behavioral Health Strategy to better meet the unique needs of LTC facility residents with mental health and substance use challenges. CMS also clarified the minimum level of knowledge and skills of facility staff to ensure that the policies and practices do not conflict with resident rights or other participation requirements.

CMS has highlighted the benefits of reducing the number of residents in each room for preventing infections and the importance of residents’ rights to privacy and homelike environment. The pandemic has further proven the risk of contracting infection diseases in rooms with several residents. CMS is urging providers to consider making changes to their settings to allow for a maximum of double occupancy in each room and encouraging facilities to explore ways to allow for more single occupancy rooms for nursing home residents.

CMS believes all people deserve to have access to quality healthcare and will continue working to improve the safety and quality of nursing home care. CMS will hold nursing homes accountable and make the quality of care and facility ownership more transparent so that potential residents and their loved ones can make informed decisions about care.

CMS release