The long-term care industry experienced outsized effects from the coronavirus pandemic of 2020/2021. Widespread infection and deaths among both nursing home residents and their caregivers saw regulatory agencies scrambling to find solutions. In June 2021, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) to further protect caregivers and their patients. Along with nursing home insurance, compliance with the ETS is a critical risk management strategy for caregivers in the home healthcare field as well as in care facilities like nursing homes and senior centers.
The COVID Toll on Long-Term Care
As the coronavirus pandemic spread across the United States, long-term care residents and staff members were in the crosshairs of the potentially deadly disease known as COVID-19. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the toll experienced by these facilities was staggering. As of July 2021, just over 658,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 were reported by nursing homes and home healthcare agencies, resulting in nearly 133,500 deaths of nursing home residents. Caregivers were also affected, with just under 2000 deaths reported from the 588,000 confirmed cases reported to CMS.
OSHA Steps in to Protect Residents and Staff
In June 2021, OSHA released its new ETS to further protect the health and safety of long-term care residents, staff members, and first responders. Home healthcare agencies and nursing homes are required to implement specific safety measures under the ETS guidelines, including:
- Physical distancing requirements.
- Use of physical barriers to maintain social distancing.
- Standardized cleaning and disinfection of facilities.
- Transmission-based patient handling precautions.
- Enhanced monitoring of COVID symptoms, including temperature checks.
- Development and implementation of COVID-19 action plans to minimize infection risks.
- Requirements for the availability and use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Daily screening of facility employees for signs of infection.
- Training standards for COVID-19 risks.
- Recordkeeping requirements, including reporting to regulatory agencies.
Is Your Agency Affected by the ETS?
OSHA’s ETS was designed to improve protection for caregivers and patients in home healthcare settings. Not every agency is required to abide by the guidelines issued in June 2021, however. To ensure compliance, OSHA published an ETS flow chart to help agencies determine whether workplaces are covered under the guidelines. For caregivers who are vaccinated and conduct screening of all non-employees before access to patients’ homes, the ETS guidelines do not apply. However, to better manage risks, adhering to the guidelines makes sense even for those agencies or personnel that do not fall under compliance. The ETS serves as a framework for infection control practices going forward. This additional safety step supplements the protection of nursing home insurance and helps keep staff members and their patients from complications associated with COVID-19 infections.
About Caitlin Morgan
Caitlin Morgan specializes in insuring assisted living facilities and nursing homes and can assist you in providing insurance and risk management services for this niche market. Give us a call to learn more about our programs at (877) 226-1027.