13 states skipped infection control surveys during pandemic, inspector general finds

Thirteen states ignored CMS recommendations and did not perform targeted infection control surveys to prepare for COVID-19 patients last year, HHS' Office of Inspector General said in a June 28 report.

Once COVID-19 emerged, CMS requested — but couldn't require — hospitals to perform special infection control surveys. As of Aug. 17, 2020, state survey agencies had only performed these surveys at about 13 percent of hospitals due to CMS' limited authority over accredited hospitals, according to the report.

No infection control surveys were performed in Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Georgia,
Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming. As of March 2, seven of these states still hadn't performed a survey.

In February 2019, CMS also urged all accredited hospitals to plan for emerging infectious diseases but cannot determine whether facilities updated their emergency preparedness plans until next year because of its quality and safety inspection cycles.

CMS hospital preparedness measures for an emerging infectious disease were well-designed and implemented, but the agency lacks the oversight authority to ensure adherence to these measures, the inspector general concluded.

"As a result of these limitations, CMS could not ensure that accredited hospitals would continue to provide quality care and operate safely during the COVID-19 emergency, and cannot ensure quality and safety at accredited hospitals when a future emerging infectious disease threatens the United States," the inspector general's report stated.

The report recommends CMS make regulatory changes that permit the agency to require hospitals to perform special surveys after it issues new participation requirements or guidelines during a public health emergency.

To view the full report, click here.

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