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Nursing Homes Should Prepare Now For New Infection Control Expectations

MacKenzie Kimball, for HealthLeaders Media, July 24, 2009

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released Transmittal R51SOMA, which provides a thorough explanation of the skilled nursing facility (SNF) infection control requirements and components of an effective infection control and prevention program. The transmittal relocated Federal Tags (F-tags) 442, 443, 444, and 445 to F441 and revised the guidance included in F441. F-tags provide investigative protocols and clarification of CMS regulations for long-term care surveyors.

The revisions, which take effect September 30, do not include any CMS regulatory changes. However, the level of detail included in the guidance is substantial.

The transmittal, which issues policies in regards to infection control programs, preventing the spread of infection, and the handling, storing, processing, and transporting of linens, also provides CDC definitions, investigative protocol for surveyors, and compliance criteria, as well as a brief overview of the role infections play in nursing facilities. The latter cites infections as the reason for almost half of all resident hospital transfers, resulting in "an estimated cost of $673 million to $2 billion annually."

SNFs will have to look at their infection control and prevention programs and determine what needs to be changed to comply with the revised guidance. "Since there is always the potential for harm with failed infection control and prevention practices, the lower deficiencies (A-C) do not apply to this F-tag. Facilities will receive higher deficiencies (D-L) for noncompliance," says Frosini Rubertino, RN, CRNAC, C-NE, CDONA/LTC, a clinical services consultant at LTC Systems, a long-term care clinical consultant firm in Bella Vista, AR, and an HCPro Boot Camp instructor.

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