Given the pandemic’s devastating toll on the US’ long-term-care residents, HHS is distributing $5 billion from the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund to these facilities and state veterans homes on the condition that they participate in CMS’ infection control training announced in late July.
The first-in-kind scenario-based training is called the “CMS Targeted COVID-19 Training for Frontline Nursing Home Staff and Management” and is available for free to more than 15,000 Medicare and Medicaid certified nursing homes on the CMS Quality, Safety & Education portal.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that nearly 80% of the US COVID-19 deaths through late August involved people aged 65 and older. In that time, roughly 53,000 COVID-19 deaths occurred in nursing homes, or about 30% of the over 175,000 total COVID-19 deaths in the US to that point. By contrast, in Japan nursing homes account for less than 15% of COVID-19 deaths, because of the high priority of elder care in society, comprehensive nursing home policies to prevent infection, and high standards of hygiene.
The CMS training covers topics including infection control and prevention; appropriate screening of visitors; effective cohorting of residents; safe admission and transfer of residents; and the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
Half of the $5 billion in funding announced in July was distributed in August. An additional $2 billion will be distributed this fall, based on “certain performance indicators that will be shared in the future.”
This $5 billion in funding aimed at protecting residents of nursing homes is in addition to the $4.9 billion distributed to nursing homes beginning in May to offset revenue losses, respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and finance PPE shipments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to nursing homes.
CMS has so far imposed $15 million in civil fines to more than 3,400 nursing homes for noncompliance with infection control requirements and the failure to report COVID-19 data.
In an August working group between the CDC and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, adults aged 65 and older were identified as one of four priority groups for early vaccination. People in that group are significantly more susceptible to complications from COVID-19; 80% of those aged 65 and older hospitalized with COVID-19 had three or more underlying medical conditions, like hypertension or diabetes.