CMS: Hospital inspections to focus on infection control as coronavirus spreads through U.S.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has told hospitals their next inspection will focus exclusively on infection control in the wake of the coronavirus. (Getty)

Your next hospital inspection will focus heavily on infection control as the Trump administration hopes to handle the spread of the coronavirus.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it is calling for state agencies and accreditation organizations to primarily focus on infection control procedures at hospitals and nursing homes as coronavirus cases spread in the U.S.

“All healthcare providers must immediately review their procedures to ensure compliance with CMS’ infection control requirements, as well as the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma told reporters Wednesday.

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The agency relies on independent accrediting organizations like The Joint Commission and state officials to inspect the safety of hospitals that want to participate in Medicare.

State inspectors and such organizations look at a "variety of different things but will now suspend that and focus [inspections] on infection control," Verma told reporters Wednesday. 

She added that inspections will still examine any safety or health threats such as allegations of abuse in nursing homes. 

The Joint Commission wrote to its accredited hospitals last week that hospitals need to have a plan for dealing with a surge of infectious patients in case the spread of the virus worsens in the U.S.

“We recommend that hospitals review their plans, assess whether they can rapidly and reliably implement their plans as designed, and modify their plans if needed based on this assessment,” the commission wrote to customers on Feb. 25.

Nursing homes and hospitals will still be inspected in response to other serious health and safety threats, but the agency wants to put a major emphasis on infection control.

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CMS also released protocols for what a hospital should do if a patient is diagnosed with the coronavirus or is suspected of having it. The agency detailed the process for how to transfer a coronavirus patient from the nursing home to the hospital.

Verma said CMS is sending a federal team of inspectors to assist state officials in Washington, where a nursing home had five of its elderly residents die due to the virus.

As of Wednesday, 11 people have died as a result of the virus. Oregon, California, North Carolina and Washington have reported cases. Worldwide, there have been 90,870 cases with the large majority in China, where nearly 3,000 people have died.