Nursing home commission makes recommendations to CMS to ‘save the lives’ of residents

A federal commission tasked with figuring out the best way to improve care in nursing homes during the coronavirus pandemic called on CMS to be a leader and make changes to improve safety for residents and staff.

“The time has come for a turning point in nursing home care,” the Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes said in a report released Wednesday. “To reduce suffering and to save the lives of residents and staff, CMS can implement or initiate the Commission’s actionable recommendations in relatively short order.”

The commission made 27 recommendations, which included the development of a national strategy with a quick turnaround of tests; creation of a process to ensure nursing homes can maintain a three-month supply of safe personal protective equipment; and recognition of visitation as a resident’s right, among other recommendations.

In the U.S., there have been 216,219 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among nursing home residents, 129,338 suspected cases and 53,196 deaths, according to the latest data available from CMS.

In a statement, CMS said the commission’s findings align with the actions the Trump administration and the agency have taken to protect nursing home residents.

“Its findings represent both an invaluable action plan for the future and a resounding vindication of our overall approach to date,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in a prepared statement.

Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, the association of not-for-profit providers of aging services, said her organization has told the federal government for seven months that national changes needed to be made to protect residents.

“As the COVID-19 death toll in nursing homes reaches over 50,000, we hope the commission report leads to a more coordinated response and delivery of resources that are backed with adequate funding,” Smith Sloan said.

LeadingAge California president and CEO Jeannee Parker Martin served on the commission but didn’t fully support its recommendations. The report notes that Parker Martin had reservations on some visitation and workforce components.

“The commission developed thoughtful recommendations to serve as a roadmap to improve our workforce while enhancing their safety and quality of care. Coupled with funding for stronger testing and adequate PPE, the recommendations from the commission will provide immediate relief and long-term support to care communities helping older adults continue to age with dignity,” Parker Martin said in a prepared statement.

The 25-person commission was coordinated by MITRE, a nonprofit organization that operates the CMS Alliance to Modernize Healthcare, and included a nursing home resident, consumer advocates, nursing home owners and administrators, infectious disease experts, academics and state authorities, among others.