"I applaud the Department of Community Health and Commissioner Berry for their hard work to reach this critical milestone in our fight against COVID-19," said Governor Kemp. "This pandemic has hit nursing homes across the country especially hard, and I am thankful for the extraordinary measures Georgia has taken to keep these vulnerable citizens safe. We will continue to do everything in our power to protect nursing home residents and staff from COVID-19."
With COVID-19 escalating to a public health emergency in March, nursing homes were presented with the daunting challenge of protecting some of our state's most vulnerable citizens. On March 23, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) suspended routine survey activity for all State Survey Agencies, including HFRD. Based on CMS protocol, DCH coordinated with the Department of Public Health and the Georgia National Guard for any onsite activity at nursing homes in order to minimize potential exposure of patients and residents to the virus and conserve the supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers and first responders.
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On June 1, 2020, CMS issued guidance requiring HFRD to complete focused infection control surveys in 100% of certified Georgia nursing homes by July 31, 2020.
"The June 1 guidance from CMS certainly required us to mobilize quickly," said Melanie Simon, HFRD Executive Director. "We were expedient in tapping into a number of different resources to obtain additional PPE during May that would enable us to safely enter Georgia's nursing homes, and the entire team tackled this challenge with a lot of courage and passion."
"I greatly applaud the work of the HFRD team, as well as our dedicated contractors and CMS surveyors who were essential in helping ensure that we were efficient and compliant in completing the inspections," continued Simon. "They have all done a phenomenal job in maintaining focus to meet our obligation to CMS and to the citizens of Georgia. We also salute the frontline caregivers in nursing homes throughout our state for their sacrifice and service during this difficult time."
HFRD continues to survey nursing homes based on CMS criteria that include COVID-19 data reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through the National Health Safety Network (NHSN). This work will be ongoing and requires immediate onsite visits within two, three, and five days based on CMS priorities.
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"I would be remiss if I didn't recognize our state partners and the Georgia National Guard for all their terrific work in helping to ensure that onsite inspections were still possible in late March, April, and May," said DCH Commissioner Frank Berry. "I couldn't be prouder of not only our HFRD team, but the way we've pulled together as a state to fight for Georgia's most vulnerable citizens against this terrible virus."
All finalized reports can be found here on the DCH website.
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