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Why are COVID-19 Cases Rising in SNFs?

Recent data trends suggest that – although SNF teams are well-trained on infection control protocols – COVID-19 infections continue to spread. Even SNFs with high marks on infection prevention surveys are experiencing a rise in cases.
This discouraging news from CMS’ Seema Verma during last week’s CMS update put SNFs across the nation on alert of an increase in infection rates and deaths. 
Why the Rise?
An infinite number of explanations may exist. 
Verma reiterated an alarming fact: Because the virus spreads so quickly, SNFs with even just a few cases are in danger of precipitating an overwhelming outbreak.
The medical community offers insights: 
  • JAMA published a study last week citing that increased infection rates are correlated to understaffed and/or overworked nursing teams;
  • The CDC warned that the spread of COVID-19 in SNFs may be linked to patients traveling offsite from their communities for ancillary tests/out-patient services (as for dialysis treatment, for example); 
  • Based on experience and case studies, HealthPRO Heritage Infection Preventionists contend that often times SNFs who successfully soar through an infection control survey will afterwards let their guard down and relax on surveillance and observations.
Root Cause Analysis: Front Line Defense Against Recurring COVID-19
SNFs may risk the threat of a never-ending cycle of infection rates rising and receding if the causes of an outbreak are not identified. As such, each COVID-19 case requires an immediate and careful review of all related factors and that the root cause be isolated and classified.
To illustrate: JAMA’s research (cited above) indicates SNFs with strained staffing models are at a higher risk for exacerbating the spread of COVID-19. But exactly why? Are contracted staff under-trained; or are IDT staff rushing dwell times of disinfectants or the donning/doffing of PPE? It is absolutely crucial to understand a precise root cause in order to execute on swift, corrective action and launch a truly iron-clad and immediate response. 
But does the typical SNF have the resources and expertise diagnose and emergently make necessary changes? This question prompted the Administrator of HRSA – Thomas Engels – to intimate that SNF operators may need to seek objective support from “beyond their own walls for infection control expertise.”
Support + Solutions = Safety
As we approach the fall season with infection rates climbing, SNFs may wish to over-prepare for what may be the next surge in COVID-19. 
Preparation may include taking infection control processes, procedures, training and competencies to the next level by engaging a team of Infection Preventionists. Ask: Are you doing everything possible to assure residents and staff remain safe and healthy? 
Outsourced infection prevention support may pay off financially, too, because Engels indicated that penalties for poor infection control outcomes are likely, stating: “We anticipate that linking payment to performance holds nursing homes accountable and stimulates  innovation."
Learn more about:
  • Advanced Infection Prevention Consulting services inclusive of a robust approach to root cause analysis and comprehensive 24/7 infection prevention resources, education and support. The team of Infection Preventionists at HealthPRO Heritage are savvy, easy to work with and can assure peace of mind. Flexible, competitively-priced partnership options are available. Contact: telemds@healthpro-heritage.com
  • Learn more about HealthPRO Heritage’s go-forward approach for assuring innovative solutions and best practices amidst the threat of COVID-19. Our team’s pledge – ReDesigning Tomorrow Together – is highlighted in a message from our senior leadership team here and outlined for partners & peers to review here.
  • Infection Prevention Readiness Assessment (complimentary to partners, $70 for non-partners) to help your organization identify areas of risk, recommend correction strategies, and ultimately avoid penalties/fines. 
  • To support healthcare facilities' battle against COVID-19, HealthPRO Heritage proudly offers invaluable infection control resources. Designed by clinical experts, the Infection Control Mini-Toolkit is a necessity for all healthcare teams preparing for survey.

Tags: skilled nursing facility, snf, COVID-19