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AzHHA Member Advisory - COVID-19: June 26

Disaster Medical Advisory Committee update

The State Disaster Medical Advisory Committee met today to discuss activation of contingency and crisis standards of care. After much discussion, the committee agreed that most, if not all, hospitals are currently operating under crisis standards of care and recommended that the Arizona Department of Health Services declare this to be the case. Moving to crisis standards of care will allow consideration of regulatory waivers as well as additional liability protections. A decision on activation is expected to be made within the next few days.

Staffing resources

The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association is here to support member hospitals experiencing workforce shortages or anticipating this in the future. If you have exhausted all other options (e.g., contracting staffing agencies), the current process is to contact your local county/public health department, and they will work with the Arizona Department of Health Services to identify alternative staffing options, such as evaluating potential candidates from the Arizona Emergency System for the Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals (ESAR-VHP) database. AzHHA has additional options/resources including staffing agencies and out-of-state hospital association resources. To discuss your unmet staffing needs please contact Sandy Severson, Vice President, Care Improvement at [email protected].

Arizona Governor renews Good Samaritan executive order

Governor Doug Ducey renewed Executive Order 2020-27, otherwise known as the “Good Samaritan” order, until December 31, 2020. The original executive order was issued on April 9, 2020 to provide civil liability protections to licensed healthcare professionals, emergency medical technicians and Arizona healthcare institutions and treatment facilities assisting in COVID-19 care. Read more on the original order here.

Congress urged to fix CARES Act taxation penalty

Nearly 20 health care provider organizations have urged Congress to enact legislation to clarify that relief funds provided through the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund and other programs as part of the nation's response to the COVID-19 pandemic are exempt from taxation, and that entities receiving them maintain the tax deductions attributable to these funds.
"Without such a correction, tax-paying health care providers lose at least 21% of the benefit of these funds," the groups said in a letter to congressional leaders. "...We do not believe Congress intended such a consequence in enacting the CARES Act and other COVID-19-related legislation."

CMS clarifies pause on LTCH policy

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently confirmed that Medicare contractors will not calculate an average length of stay for long-term care hospitals for cost reporting periods that include the COVID-19 public health emergency, which took effect March 1. In April, CMS implemented a blanket waiver of the LTCH policy requiring an average length of stay of greater than 25 days. Contractors will resume evaluating compliance with the policy for the first cost reporting period that does not include the public health emergency.
CMS: Clinicians can apply for COVID-19 MIPS exception

Clinicians participating in the Quality Payment Program Merit-based Incentive Payment System in 2020 whose practice was significantly impacted by the COVID-19 public health emergency may apply for an exception to reweight the MIPS performance categories, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced yesterday. For more information, see the exception applications fact sheet and webpage.

Hand sanitizer warning 

FDA last week warned consumers to not use hand sanitizers manufactured by Eskbiochem. The company’s hand sanitizer includes a presence of methanol, a chemical that is toxic to the skin and when ingested. FDA reached out to ask the company to remove the products from the market, but the products still were available when FDA distributed this alert last Friday.

Food and COVID-19

The CDC last week issued guidance on food and COVID-19. The guidance confirms that there is no evidence to suggest that handling or consuming food is associated with transmitting COVID-19. CDC does recommend hand washing and all of the standard safety precautions as the risk of infection from food, food packaging or shopping bags exists but is low.