Nursing homes ask for visitation flexibility as Omicron rages

Seniors’ service organizations are now urging the Biden administration to provide flexibility to limit nursing home visits, citing expected increases in COVID-19 cases linked to the omicron variant.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued guidelines in November allowing visits for “all residents at any time.”

While visitors should be made aware of the risks of COVID-19 in a nursing home, CMS said in a note, public health emergency (PHE) limitations on resident visits will be lifted. This includes nursing homes under investigation for an outbreak.

Institutions can no longer limit the number of visitors, frequency or length of visit, which were previously all acceptable under the PHE. Visits should always follow infection prevention protocols, CMS quickly added – physical distance should always be maintained during peak hours, such as meals.

LeadingAge, the American Health Care Association and the National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA / NCAL) and the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine (AMDA) sent a letter to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks- LaSure on Friday, suggesting that the agency give facilities the ability to impose temporary visitation restrictions to protect residents and adhere to infection prevention protocols.

“At the time of writing, it appears that an institution is not allowed to impose any restrictions on visits, regardless of staff levels, community positivity rates or the severity of the outbreak. establishment, ”the associations said in the letter. “We are concerned that outright, unconditional language may pose a risk to nursing homes and their residents, placing skilled nursing facilities in precarious situations when epidemics occur.”

The broad scope of CMS guidelines could also conflict with state and local health departments, the associations said, adding to the confusion.

While associations have spoken out in favor of reducing the isolation and loneliness of nursing home residents through visitation, medical directors and infection prevention officers as well as local health services need help. “More flexibility” to make the right call.

Before the pandemic, nursing homes were able to restrict visitors in light of influenza or norovirus outbreaks, the associations said. Canceling decision-making at the local level is “counter-intuitive and potentially dangerous” – operators are already expecting an increase in omicron cases, as well as hospitals in the region. In some cases, omicron is already rampant in facilities and the surrounding community, association leaders said.

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