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Consumer Voice, Other Advocates Call on CMS to Safely Open Nursing Home Doors

March 04, 2021

Consumer Voice, along with a number of other organizations and individuals, sent a letter with a detailed set of recommendations to CMS requesting that the agency take immediate measures to safely open the doors of nursing homes.

On March 13, 2021 it will be one year since CMS issued guidance that closed nursing home doors.  The impact of this lockdown has been devastating to residents – physical, mental, and cognitive deterioration; severe emotional distress; decline in personal appearance; and more.  The toll on residents has been accelerated by a decline in qualified staff; lack of monitoring and assistance from family members; and the absence of regular onsite visits by state surveyors and advocacy by long-term care ombudsmen.

Consumer Voice and other advocates believe the time has come to stop this suffering. The implementation of the vaccine to prevent COVID-19 and the reduced likelihood of contracting and dying from the virus has altered the risk-benefit analysis. Now, although the risk to residents from COVID is decreasing, the risk of harm from isolation and neglect is increasing, as residents continue to go without care and companionship for a longer period of time.  

We are calling on CMS to restore full visitation rights as soon as possible. In the interim, and during the Public Health Emergency only, we are urging CMS to ensure that:   

  • Each resident is allowed an essential support person (ESP).  More than one person may be designated as an ESP, but only one ESP per resident should be present at one time.  The ESP must be allowed unrestricted access to residents to provide them physical and emotional support and meet their needs. ESPs should be treated as employees of the facility for infection control purposes, including routine COVID-19 testing and the wearing of PPE.
  • All residents are allowed indoor and outdoor visitation in addition to visits with an ESP. Visitation must follow strict screening and infection control procedures. Length and number of visits must be in accordance with a resident’s needs and preferences but no less than one hour weekly.  This one hour per week does not include visits from ESPs. Visits must continue regardless of outbreaks, county positivity rate, and staffing levels. A positive COVID test for a resident or staff person, or a county positivity rate greater than 10% may be factors in determining the level of visitation allowed, e.g. the number of visitors permitted at one time or the locations for visits, but must not suspend visitation.

Read the letter and recommendations.
Visit our website to find out about upcoming events and ways to take action to change visitation policy.

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