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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

Will CMS survey be a tool to enforce OSHA regs?

As the lines blur between patient safety and worker safety, hospital employee health professionals can expect much more scrutiny, even from regulators who are typically centered on patient care. A new, draft survey tool from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sounds a bit like an inspection checklist from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Is your bloodborne pathogen program up to date? Are you fit-testing at-risk employees every year? Did you document offering the hepatitis B vaccine? Those are just a few worker-related questions on the new survey tool, which is in its final stages of pilot-testing. The final tool is expected in October. “The government’s catching on that there’s a connection between employee safety and patient safety,” says Bill Buchta, MD, MPH, medical director of the Occupational Health Service at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. “But it just seems odd that you have Medicare and Medicaid, where the primary goal is patient safety and getting the best value for your dollar, [asking about] providing hepatitis B vaccine.” In most cases, CMS isn’t actually proposing to cite hospitals for worker safety issues. The survey tool contains items that are subject to citation (such as using single-dose vials with more than one patient) and those that aren’t subject to citation (such as failure to empty sharps containers). But the tool is also intended for self-assessment by hospitals, says Daniel Schwartz, MD, MBA, chief medical officer of the CMS Survey and Certification Group in Baltimore, MD “We felt it was important to include those questions that weren’t in the standards but that we felt were very important for basic infection control and to prevent the transmission of infections in hospitals,” he says.