By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has created an independent commission to investigate and to make recommendations regarding the quality and safety of American nursing homes, especially the immediate and future responses to COVID-19 outbreaks in these facilities.

Later this month, selected residents and their family members, advocates, experts, academics, and various appointed and elected officials will gather to craft recommendations around three focus areas: enhance infection control practices as they relate to preventing the spread of COVID-19, strengthen rapid identification and mitigation of COVID-19 cases, and maximize overall nursing home resident protection against COVID-19.

Commission members will use the latest data to assess the current COVID-19 response in nursing homes and come up with fresh approaches to using such information to help local, state, and federal agencies coordinate more effectively.

CMS Administrator Seema Verma said this commission is part of a broader, five-part, long-term plan to address the nation’s nursing home safety, which the agency unveiled in April 2019. “As we get ready to celebrate Older Americans Month [May], it is a reminder of how important the work we do at CMS is to ensuring seniors have access to quality care, not only during times like this, but at all times,” Verma said.

In the more immediate term, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act includes $955 million in funds targeted specifically to the needs of older Americans and people with disabilities. For a detailed breakdown of these funds, click here.

Because older people are especially vulnerable to the virus, there has been a wave of deaths in several nursing homes related to COVID-19, as reported this week on Relias Media’s “HICprevent” blog. The upcoming June issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention expands on this subject and the overall conditions in U.S. nursing homes during the pandemic.

In the upcoming June issue of Healthcare Risk Management, author Greg Freeman investigates the serious liability risks nursing homes face during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. The high number of deaths may prompt lawsuits, although some states are immunizing nursing homes against such litigation. The standard of care during the pandemic, along with documentation of a nursing home’s response and limited resources, will be key issues.

For all the latest Relias Media COVID-19 coverage, please click here.