CMS proposes new fire safety regs

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services this week released proposed fire safety standards for hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

The requirements would apply to certain hospitals that participate in Medicare and Medicaid, as well as critical-access hospitals, long-term care facilities and hospices that provide inpatient services, according to CMS. The proposed requirements allow:

  • Healthcare facilities taller than 75 feet to install automatic sprinkler systems within 12 years. "We propose to adopt this new provision because high-rise buildings require more time to evacuate, and sprinklers would very likely allow additional time to safely evacuate a facility," CMS stated.

  • Organizations to increase the size of rooms to up to 7,500 square feet--a 50 percent increase--to accommodate more patients. "This change allows healthcare facilities to have more patients in a single area, reducing the number of staff that are necessary to visually monitor patients and allowing facilities to accommodate additional pieces of medical equipment or visitor space," CMS officials wrote.

  • Healthcare facilities to lock interior doors to protect the safety of high-risk patients, such as individuals who may wander, and to reduce the risk of infant abductions. In order to comply with this requirement, staff must carry keys and facilities must have smoke detection systems and sprinklers in place, electric locks that release if the building loses power or smoke detectors and sprinklers activate.

  • Facilities to install aerosol and hand sanitizer dispensers throughout the building.

CMS will also retain a rule requiring smoke control ventilation systems in operating rooms so doctors can finish procedures before evacuating.

The federal government proposed new rules for fire safety systems as part of an overhaul of disaster preparedness requirements in late 2013, but the American Hospital Association (AHA) said implementing the emergency preparedness rules could cost up to $225 million. The government "may have significantly underestimated the burden and cost associated with complying with this rule," according to the AHA, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the proposed fire safety requirements (.pdf)

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