The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ambitious plan to survey the nation’s hospital infection programs is drawing fire for both going beyond its regulatory authority in some areas and not requiring more infection prevention staff and support employees in others.
The issues came to the floor in recently in San Antonio at a packed session at the annual meeting of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC). Wary of another unfunded mandate from a regulatory agency, an infection preventionist in the audience asked whether the CMS would establish and require a minimum number of full-time equivalent [FTE] staff for infection control programs.
“CMS is not going to do that, but I will tell you that the way around [this is the] governing board, the hospital leadership, is required to make sure you have an effective infection control program,” said Daniel Schwartz, MD, MBA, chief medical offer of the CMS Survey and Certification Group in Baltimore, Maryland. “I know right now if you went to your CEO, you may not get much time to make that case. But I think there is going to be a lot more focus on the quality assessment, performance improvement part of the [CMS survey] regulation so you might want go back and look at that carefully. I think that’s the pressure point. We are trying to emphasize that the hospital should provide the resources necessary to be able to protect patients from developing HAIs.”
“Sir with all due respect,” the IP replied from the APIC audience. “Until there is a minimum standard [for FTEs], we’re not going to get this [support].”
There is some historical accuracy to the perception, but Schwartz emphasized the unprecedented state and federal interest in reducing HAIs from a variety of agencies and coalitions like the Partnership for Patients.
“I feel for you all because you have a job that has really risen up in importance in the last couple of years,” he told APIC attendees. “Going back 20 years ago — for those of you who have been infection control officers a long time — you were probably running around waving a flag and trying to get attention. And nobody really thought this was important. That’s changed dramatically in the last couple of years.”
For more on this story see the July 12 issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention