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2019 Novel Coronavirus News related to
Health Facilities Licensing & Certification

COVID-19: Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, State of Alaska
DHSS is closely monitoring an outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel coronavirus. Learn more about the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Please check back frequently for new information and important updates.
Alaska Medicaid and Coronavirus (COVID-19)
 


September 18, 2020

COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Survey
The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is conducting a COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Survey to the state’s assess readiness to accept and administer the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available. Please see COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Survey Overview for more information.


September 15, 2020

Reopening Guidance for Skilled Nursing Facilities – Revised 09/15/2020
On September 15, 2020, the Department of Health and Social Services released revised guidelines for reopening skilled nursing facilities.


September 3, 2020

Governor's Office Issues Updated COVID-19 FAQs
The Governor's Office has updated its COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions. Updates include information for those who, because of a disability, cannot safely wear a mask.


August 4, 2020

Reopening Guidance for Nursing Homes: FAQs
On August 4, 2020, the Department of Health and Social Services released frequently asked questions concerning the reopening of skilled nursing facilities.

June 30, 2020


Reopening Guidance for Skilled Nursing Facilities
On June 30, 2020, the Department of Health and Social Services released Guidance for Reopening Skilled Nursing Facilities.


June 12, 2020


CMS Reminds Nursing Facilities that Law and Regulation Prohibit Seizure of Residents’ COVID Stimulus Payments
On June 11, CMS issued a press release noting its awareness of allegations that nursing homes are seizing residents’ CARES Act economic impact payments. CMS reminds nursing facilities that this is prohibited under federal law and regulation, specifically regulations found at 42 CFR 483.12 pertaining to residents’ freedom from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. CMS directs residents or their families who have experienced such seizures to refer complaints to state survey agencies and Attorneys General.



June 11, 2020


Nursing Homes Are Prohibited from Seizing Residents’ COVID-19 Stimulus Payment
Most nursing facility residents are eligible up to $1,200 stimulus payments under the CARES Act. These funds belong to the residents; seizure by nursing facilities is prohibited. Following reports of nursing facilities wrongly requiring residents to relinquish their stimulus payments, CMS Administrator Seema Verma announced that those who engage in this behavior “will be subject to [federal] enforcement action.

Under state and federal Medicaid regulations, the stimulus payment is not counted as income for residents who are Medicaid eligible. Therefore, receipt of a stimulus payment does not affect eligibility, nor does it change a resident’s monthly cost of care (the amount a Medicaid recipient must pay toward the cost of their long-term care).


May 12, 2020


COVID-19 Communicative Technology CMP Request
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has authorized qualified applicants to submit the Civil Money Penalty (CMP) Reinvestment Application, COVID-19 Communicative Technology Request for the purchase of communications technology equipment and accessories. These funds are to purchase equipment such as tablets (e.g., iPads, Samsung Galaxy Tabs, Kindle Fires, Amazon Echo Shows) and accessories (e.g., protective covers, headphones, cleaning and disinfection products) to assist with resident and family communications. The maximum amount of grant funding is $3,000 per nursing facility. Exceptions are funded on a case-by-case basis (e.g., for facilities with a large number or residents).
 
Once an application is approved, facilities can purchase the authorized devices and accessories. Next, the facility will submit their receipts to the department for reimbursement.


May 1, 2020


Interim Guidance on SARS-CoV-2 Testing for Asymptomatic Residents Being Admitted to Congregate Living Facilities
The Division of Public Health’s Section of Epidemiology has releasedguidance for administrators and health care providers affiliated with congregate living facilities (e.g., skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, residential treatment facilities) that serve persons who typically remain at the facility for a sustained period of at least 14 days. 


April 30, 2020


New icon Federal Certification Survey Activity
On 4/28/20 CMS informed the State of Alaska to continue to follow the survey prioritization outlined in QSO-20-20 until further notice.

New icon CDC COVID-19 Guidance for Healthcare Facilities
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released COVID-19 guidance for facilities. for specific provider types. These guidelines can be found at 

New icon CDC COVID-19 Guidance for Healthcare Professionals
The CDC has released COVID-19 guidance for healthcare professionals. Infection control topics include PPE use, infection control methods, hand hygiene, and work exposure guidance and training.



April 8, 2020


Home Health: Temporary Suspension of Supervisory Visit Regulations
Under the authority of Governor Dunleavy’s COVID-19 Disaster Order of Suspension No. 2, the onsite supervision requirements in the following regulations are suspended effective 04/09/2020 to allow home health supervisory visits to be conducted via telephone or video conferencing. This temporary suspension may be rescinded at any time, upon notification by the department.

April 6, 2020


Emergency Application for Bed Increases & Alternate Care Sites
Hospitals and Long Term Cares (LTC) who wish to temporarily increase bed number or provide care and services at an alternate care site must complete a Hospital/LTC Emergency Licensure Application. This process applies to both tribal and non-tribal facilities as an emergency action to maintain accurate numbers of increased beds and services provided at alternate care sites.
 
Temporary Bed Increases
Hospitals & LTCs can increase currently licensed bed capacity, add an on-campus location to their current license, or move an existing service to another location. Hospitals & LTCs must specify the type of space being added. Facilities are expected to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Alternate Care Sites Guidance.
 
Temporary Satellite Requests
Hospitals & LTCs can add inpatient beds and/or outpatient services at an off-campus location. Facilities are expected to follow the CDC Alternate Care Sites Guidance and in conjunction with Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) provider specific regulations that are not waived.
 
Processing
License applications must be submitted to Matthew Thomas, Health Care Facilities Licensing & Certification at matthew.thomas2@alaska.gov with the subject line “Emergency Application – [FACILITY NAME]”.  Please allow 1-3 business days for processing and review. Health Facilities Licensing and Certification will evaluate applications in the order received and will notify the facility of the application decision by email. If you need this material in an alternate format, please call (907) 334-2664.


Previous Updates

 
Updated icon Federal Certification Survey Activity
Effective March 23, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released new survey prioritization guidelines, QSO-20-20, allowing surveyors to focus on addressing the spread of coronavirus and other serious health and safety threats. The document provides additional detail regarding the new priority level for certification survey activities and infection control risk-assessments for long term cares and hospitals.

Authorized Surveys Per QSO-20-20-All (valid through 4/10/20)
  • Complaint/Facility-Reported Incident Surveys: State survey agencies (SSAs) will conduct surveys related to complaints and facility-reported incidents (FRIs) that are triaged at the Immediate Jeopardy (IJ) level.  A streamlined Infection Control review tool will also be utilized during these surveys, regardless of the Immediate Jeopardy allegation.
  • Targeted Infection Control Surveys: Federal CMS and State surveyors will conduct targeted Infection Control surveys of providers identified through collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). They will use a streamlined review checklist to minimize the impact on provider activities, while ensuring providers are implementing actions to protect the health and safety of individuals to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Initial Certification Surveys: Initial certification surveys will continue to be authorized in accordance within current guidance and prioritization. These will be reviewed by State Agency and CMS prior to initiating these surveys.
Non-Authorized Surveys Per QSO-20-20-All (valid through 4/10/20)
  • Standard Health, Life Safety and Emergency Preparedness Surveys: for long term care facilities (nursing homes), hospitals, home health agencies (HHAs), intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities (ICF/IIDs), and hospices. 
  • Revisit Surveys that are not associated with an Immediate Jeopardy finding.
State Licensure Survey Activity
As of March 16, 2020, the State Survey Agency (HFL&C) has suspended all licensure survey activity with the exception of complaints/concerns that are believed to present an immediate danger or potential for immediate danger. HFL&C will continue to investigate violations of an applicable statute or regulation has occurred that presents an immediate danger to the health, safety, or welfare of an individual receiving services from a licensed health care facility. Please continue to review the HFL&C website for updates.
 
Infection Control
CMS has reminded healthcare facilities and State Survey Agencies (SAs) to maintain compliance with current CMS requirements and safety standards, specifically infection control procedures. Additionally, CMS has provided assessment tools and checklists for providers:
Updated icon Long-Term Care Facility Access Restriction
Except for certain compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life, facility access by visitors, non-essential staff, and other non-essential individuals should be prohibited. This criteria and additional information was established by CMS on March 13, 2020.  In lieu of visitations, facilities should consider offering alternative means of communication such as virtual communication or telephone calls. Facilities are encouraged to follow the CDC recommendations regarding protecting your residents, facility and staff. This restriction does not apply to state surveyors and CMS surveyors. Please review the revised QSO-20-14-NH, dated March 13, 2020, for details.

Updated icon Non-Urgent and Elective Procedures
On March 19, 2020 Governor Dunleavy issued Health Mandate 005: Elective Medical Procedures requiring all non-urgent and elective procedures to be postponed for three months to decrease the overall impact of COVID-19 on Alaska’s health care system. The mandate includes recommended actions and resources for practitioners.

Providers are encouraged to closely monitor all mandates issued by the Office of the Governor, and guidance issued by the State’s Chief Medical Officer and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Operational Changes MUST be Reported Within 48 Hours
Facilities must notify HFL&C of any changes to operational status (e.g., full or partial closure, change of services). Submit status changes within 48 hours to matthew.thomas2@alaska.gov.


Regulatory Questions?
Contact Matthew Thomas at matthew.thomas2@alaska.gov or (907) 334-2664 if you have questions related to state and federal regulatory requirements.

COVID-19 and Quarantine Questions?
Contact DHSS Epidemiology or refer to CDC guidelines, information, and reports regarding COVID-19 cases and quarantine protocols.

If you are advised to monitor yourself for symptoms of COVID-19 after a possible COVID-19 exposure, please visit COVID-19: If You May Have Been Exposed for additional information.