By: Sharon Parsley
It is not news that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have rocked Texas and the Florida mainland, and Irma has left unimaginable damage throughout the Caribbean and Florida Keys. During both hurricanes, considerable media attention was directed to how well hospitals and other sub-acute care providers in the affected areas were prepared for and responded to these events. When coupled with the loss of multiple lives occurring at the Rehab Center at Hollywood Hills, seemingly due, at least in part, to exposure to extremely elevated temperatures during an extended power outage, emergency readiness should be near the top of every health care provider and supplier agenda. Providers and suppliers should also be mindful of a rapidly approaching regulatory deadline Medicare requirement for continued participation on the topic of emergency preparedness.
While the Emergency Preparedness Requirements for Medicare and Medicaid Participating Providers and Suppliers regulation (the “EP Reg”) was published in the Federal Register in September of 2016, providers and suppliers falling into one of 17 categories are required to comply with the EP Reg on or before November 16, 2017. Among those provider and supplier types affected are hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, psychiatric residential treatment facilities, home health agencies, and certain clinics and rehabilitation service providers.
As a condition of continued participation in Medicare and Medicaid, the EP Reg requires each affected provider and supplier to have a comprehensive emergency preparedness program which considers “all hazards”. Questions that you should consider across 4 core elements of your emergency preparedness plan (“EP Plan”) as set forth in the EP Reg include:
- Risk Assessment – Have you identified the hazards possible or likely within your geographic area? What are the potential outcomes if/when each possible hazard arises (e.g. power and equipment failure, loss of equipment, unavailability of medical records and lost or damaged supplies or facilities)? What is your EP Plan to mitigate each outcome?
- Communications – If/when a hazard occurs, how will you communicate within your organization, with your patients, with state and local public health and emergency management agencies and the media?
- Policies and procedures – Have you adopted and tested each phase of your EP Plan and adopted any required policies and procedures? Have you confirmed that your EP Plan complies with Federal and applicable State law?
- Training and testing – Are your employees well trained about possible hazards and their role in response and outcome mitigation? Do they know about your EP Plan and what is expected of them if/when a hazard occurs?
In collaboration with various Federal and State agencies, accrediting bodies, provider associations and patient advocacy groups, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services have developed tools, resources and checklists to aid the affected provider and supplier communities in complying with the EP Reg. For additional information, visit the CMS website.