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End of PHE
On April 10th 2023, the President signed into law H.J.Res 7, which effectively terminates the national emergency related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Public Health Emergency (PHE) is set to end on May 11th, 2023 upon the expiration of the emergency declaration. On May 1st 2023, CMS released QSO-23-13-ALL which brings to an end many of the waivers CMS has implemented since the on-set of the pandemic.
The PHE has been winding down for some time now. CMS has been working on sunsetting waivers for some time in certain building types since last year. As the nation starts to open back up, so too has the pandemic precautions become more relaxed. Most facilities have been preparing for a return to normal for a while. The termination of the waivers marks the official start of the return to the new normal.
In the guidance released by CMS, it was mentioned that CMS would revisit the requirements requiring established policies and procedures for staff vaccination against the COVID-19. The end of the PHE and comment on the interim rule is being considered in the termination of the requirement. It is important to note that the requirement isn’t ended in the memo release, but changes may be forthcoming to the requirement. What exactly these changes look like is unclear, however expect CMS to release more details at the end of the public health emergency.
Full-Scale Emergency Preparedness exercises are to resume for the 2023 annual cycle for inpatient providers and suppliers. Providers and suppliers such as Inpatient hospice facilities, long-term care facilities, Hospitals and the like are expected to return to normal operating status based on the regulator requirements. Outpatient providers such as Ambulatory Surgical centers, must conduct either an exercise of choice or a full-scale exercise based upon their annual cycle. Fire drills also must return to their pre-pandemic schedules.
Alcohol-Based Hand-Rub (ABHR) during the pandemic the prescriptive requirements were waived due to the increased need for visitors and staff to sanitize for infection control. The waiver is set to end, and the prescriptive measures will return. This means that after May 11th, 2023, facilities will need to evaluate their ABHR distribution and ensure that it is back to pre-pandemic levels and compliant with the life safety code.
Waivers which allowed for modification to inspection, testing and maintenance (ITM) frequency on medical equipment are set to end. Facilities should review their schedules to ensure they are back to pre-pandemic cadences. The same is advisable for Life Safety Related ITMs to ensure that they are back to pre-pandemic cadences.
There are 23 pages in total in the memo released; detailing all the exceptions set to terminate at the end of the public health emergency for various types of organizations. The guidance is in line with eliminating flexibilities previously put in place as a result of the pandemic to ease the burden of compliance on organizations.