Archive August 2021

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AHCA/NCAL Urges Biden Administration to Consider Implications of Vaccination Policy

Following the recent announcement from President Biden that all nursing home staff will be required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in a forthcoming regulation, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) warned about the potential impact on the profession’s already challenging workforce situation. Industry leaders are deeply concerned that it may cause a mass exodus from the nursing home profession, leaving frail seniors without the caregivers and access to care they need. 
AHCA/NCAL sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, encouraging the Administration to strengthen the policy by including all health care settings and provide resources to support providers in their efforts. In the letter, AHCA/NCAL offers key solutions for federal officials to ensure success:  
  • The President’s order should include a vaccine mandate for all health care workers in all Medicare and Medicaid certified settings. This is the only way to prevent nursing facility employees from leaving to work in other settings such as hospitals or home health.
  • More education must take place to provide information to vaccine hesitant staff. We worked with the CDC on a digital media campaign that targeted facilities and we had success in increasing vaccination rates. Individuals who saw our advertising reported they were more likely to get vaccinated after watching or reading the ads. Unfortunately, there was only $1 million allocated for that campaign, and we quickly exhausted the funds. We ask that the Administration, either with us or on its own, dedicate $25 million to restart and expand this effort. 
  • There should be a federally funded daily testing alternative for staff that won’t take the vaccine. This will give the education efforts time to work and prevent a sudden departure of large numbers of staff. We realize and would support this option being time limited. Currently 16 states and the District of Columbia have implemented vaccine mandates for some or all health care workers. Of these, eight (Delaware, D.C, Hawaii, Maryland, Mississippi, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island) include regular testing for unvaccinated staff as a provision of their mandate. 
  • Providers will incur significant expense in agency staff once this policy goes into effect. We encourage the Administration to set aside $3 billion from the Provider Relief Fund to cover the cost of implementing this program including use of agency staff, recruiting replacement staff as well as the cost of testing staff. This could either be in the form of a direct payment on a per bed basis at the start of the program, or an application process with funds set aside to cover these costs. 
  • We continue to urge HRSA to open the portal for the additional Provider Relief Funds, both in the general fund and the rural fund. The sector is in crisis and the time to open these funds is now. 
  • CMS should modify its visitation guidance to allow providers to ask visitors about their vaccination and test results and require vaccination or negative tests prior to visits. This should also apply to federal and state survey inspectors and ombudsman.
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Excellence in Long Term Care Awards Timeline Changes

MHCA and LTCOP have made the following adjustments to the 2021 Excellence in Long Term Care Awards program due to ongoing impacts of COVID-19:
  • Winners will be selected by the panel of judges by August 31st. Announcements/notifications will happen no later than September 7th.
  • We have transitioned the live event to a virtual one, which will be held on Thursday, September 30th at 11 am.
Please make a note of these changes.

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Weekly winner round-up in the Mike McNeil Cash Calendar Fundraiser!

MHCA is excited to announce this week's round of prize winners in the Mike McNeil Cash Calendar fundraiser. Drawings are posted to the MHCA Facebook page each day and will continue through the month of August, with a total of $3000 in prizes being given away!
  • August 19:  Lori Pomelow – Russell Park Rehab
  • August 20:  Ann Jobla – 75 State Street
  • August 21: Kim Packard – Norway Rehab
  • August 22: Lisa Chilgron – Courtland Rehab & Living Center
  • August 23: Lori Maxwell – Scarborough Terrace
  • August 24: Carmen Fortin – Saint Andrew’s Village
  • August 25: Amy Smith – Pinnacle-Sanford
Winners will receive their prizes by mail prior to September 15th at the home address provided on the collection sheet. Thank you for your support of the Mike McNeil Scholarship Fund!

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Pre-registration required for HCW Vaccination Rule Webinar this Friday

Please join DHHS representatives for an important stakeholder webinar this Friday, August 27, 2021 at 11:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada) on the new Healthcare Worker Vaccination Rule.
You must register in advance for this webinar:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.
The Department will briefly introduce the rule and then take questions. MHCA recommends you read the FAQ document that is live on the State’s website before the webinar.
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CMS & CDC Offer SNF/NF Stakeholder Update: Wednesday, August 25, 2021 4:00pm-4:30pm ET

Join the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for a National Nursing Home Stakeholder Call. 

*** Register below IN ADVANCE for this Zoom Call:***

During this call, CMS and CDC will provide a recap of recent announcements and provide National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) updates.

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FDA Grants Full Approval to Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine

According to the FDA's announcement, the vaccine will “now be marketed as Comirnaty, for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older. The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization (EUA), including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.”

Today’s approval means that this vaccine meets the highest safety and efficacy standards and is a big step in the fight against COVID-19. Long term care providers have been working tirelessly over the past 18 months to protect staff and highly vulnerable residents. AHCA/NCAL undertook the #GetVaccinated campaign earlier this year to encourage staff and residents to get one of the three available vaccines. Today’s announcement should provide additional reassurance that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective.

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For more information on this as well as the recently announced
booster shot plan, please see COVID-19 Vaccine: Boosters vs. Additional Doses for Immunocompromised.

CDC Recommends COVID Vaccine during Pregnancy or Breastfeeding

The CDC now officially recommends COVID-19 vaccination for people who are pregnant, breastfeeding, trying to get pregnant now, or might become pregnant in the future. Previously, the CDC had recommended it be left up to the individual to discuss with their physician. The CDC has collected enough data about the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy to suggest that the benefits of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine outweigh any known or potential risks. Pregnant and recently pregnant people are more likely to get severely ill with COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant people. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine can protect you from severe illness from COVID-19. To learn more, visit the CDC website on COVID-19 Vaccines While Pregnant or Breastfeeding

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Maine Immunization Program Update for Providers

According to a post from the Maine Immunization Program on August 23, 2021, providers should note when entering historical immunizations into a patient’s record, it should only be entered into ImmPact or an EMR based on a certificate of immunization, not a patient's word. Whenever possible it should include ALL required fields of immunization date, trade name, lot number, etc. This includes COVID-19 immunizations. Note that any patient with an unspecified COVID-19 vaccine (meaning there is no trade name) will be deleted. 

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Action Plan and Resource Documents for Vaccine Requirement

As you know Maine DHHS is now requiring COVID Vaccination for Healthcare Workers (HCW) in many of our member facilities. Just yesterday, DHHS released a link to an FAQ that offers clarification on many of the questions and concerns that we have heard from our members. We know this is not easy. We know and share your questions and concerns regarding this mandate. Rest assured, MHCA is pursuing answers to your questions, and will continue to advocate for our member homes throughout this time of uncertainty. We hope to have additional information in the weeks to follow.
In the meantime, we have developed a set of resource tools for you to reference as you develop plans for compliance with this new rule. Included is an Action Plan outlining the implementation needs to comply by October 1, 2021. We have also created 'plug and play' templated documents to use as a guide.
Below is the link to the MHCA action plan and templated documents for your use: vaccination

As always, Thank you for all you do. We are here if you need us. 

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Update on HHS Provider Relief Funds

Last week, AHCA/ NCAL sent a letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra urging the release of the remainder of the Provider Relief Funds. For the last year and a half, nursing homes and assisted living providers have been working hard to protect the health and safety of their residents. 
COVID-19 and the recent explosion of the Delta variant continues to impact thousands of skilled nursing and assisted living facilities across the US. As a result, long term care providers continue to face immediate and dire circumstances. While the COVID-19 vaccine has lowered the infection and hospitalization rates in the United States and our facilities vigilance has mitigated potential spread, the delta variant remains formidable and challenging.
Skyrocketing labor costs due to a challenging labor market and lower patient census is culminating in serious challenges. 
Maine’s Senator Susan Collins has also drafted a letter urging HHS to provide an immediate update on its plan to distribute the remaining provider relief funds. The letter states, “Hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living providers, health clinics, and other health care providers need these funds to help weather the financial difficulties created by the pandemic.” As the health care provider community continues to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic, Collins notes that this funding “should be released without any further delay.” 
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