Let there be more light

By Steve MacArthur, Hospital Safety Consultant

Now (now, now) is the time (time, time) to be (be, be) aware…

While I don’t suppose there’s any reason to think that Lucy in the Sky will be ascending in a mighty ship, it does appear that things are starting to shift on the regulatory front as it relates to COVID-19.

In an August 18, CMS blog entry, it would seem that there is positioning (or positing?) relative to moving past the current pandemic (and I use the term “current” with some trepidation, but more on that in a moment.)

Within the blog are links to a couple of items of note, including CMS’ strategic plan for addressing the current PHE (and, interestingly enough, within the strategic plan there is an embedded link to the CMS behavioral health strategy).

There’s a lot of information to be found and definitely worth checking out, particularly CMS’ tool for mapping Medicare disparities; there’s a lot of variation across the country and it sounds like there is work afoot to reduce that variation. To see what’s going on in your neck of the woods, go here.

I think everyone in the mix is yearning for a day when the pandemic is well and truly behind us, at least as far as critical impact on operations. (I’m not convinced we’ll ever be rid of this —I suspect it will just join seasonal flu on the calendar, though probably not so seasonal—oy!). And CMS is definitely encouraging folks to start getting on with a return to normal operations.

The blog reiterates that there will be 60 days official notice before discontinuation of the PHE (which, by my reckoning and the latest extension of the PHE through October 15, 2022, gives us an end date of just before the end of the year—such a holiday gift!), so there’s that. At this point, I’m not sure how much this really changes anything, but if it does (change anything), I suppose it’s for the better.

To keep an eye on the next potential pandemic (I honestly can’t remember the specifics of early 2020 clearly enough to say for certain that we’ve been down this road before, but it’s kind of starting to feel like maybe, just maybe…), the trends seems to be on the rise, though there is some variability.

The overall picture does seem to indicate that the greatest incidence is near transportation hubs (with a little left and right coastal action). I know locally there are cases, but it’s still kind of an undercurrent to the ongoing COVID concerns. As was certainly the case back in the early days of COVID, guidance from CDC is an evolving construct (most recent guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/clinicians/infection-control-healthcare.html ).

It looks like we’ll be dealing with N-95 respirators for a while yet, so make sure everyone’s current for fit-testing. For environmental cleaning, make sure that appropriate products are being used (that info is here: https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/disinfectants-emerging-viral-pathogens-evps-list-q). I guess it’s just a question of making slight adjustments to practice and stay the pandemic course.

About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with Chartis Clinical Quality Solutions (formerly known as The Greeley Company) in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Healthcare Safety Leader. Contact Steve at stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.