HHS to Send Rapid Point-of-Care Testing to Nursing Homes

HHS to Send Rapid Point-of-Care Testing to Nursing Homes

Press reports have stated that Washington State Nursing Homes are ineligible for the shipment of rapid point-of-care testing instruments believing that none of our state SNFs have the required CLIA waiver. Dept of Health and Residential Care Services/DSHS have confirmed with CMS Baltimore that this finding was made in error.  DOH has provided RCS a list of all Washington State nursing homes that do have the CLIA waiver.  All nursing homes on this list will be eligible and included in the distribution of testing machines.  We have reviewed for completeness and nearly all of our members are on the CLIA waiver list.  For this few members that are not on the CLIA waiver list, we will follow up directly with you to offer guidance on next steps.

Importantly, we are seeking clarification as to whether you must go to the DOH website to add the COVID antigen test to the list of tests that your facility will conduct. You may find that website and reporting form here.

There are still a number of other questions that must be answered including training issues, test supply ordering information and specific testing guidance needed from CMS prior to the use of these antigen machines.  One of the more prominent concerns we have is the reliability of the antigen testing machines and the percentage (80-85%) of false negatives it produces.  While CMS states that a lab should be used to follow up on any false negative results when the individual has COVID symptoms or has otherwise been exposed to COVID, the labs may still take an inordinate amount of time to verify the false negative antigen test.  And we are concerned that additional testing supplies will be inadequate and slow to arrive with pricing yet unknown.  And the method of testing to use these machines requires the use of nasal swabs; an intrusive and uncomfortable process particularly for residents and those with dementia.

While some believe that these testing machines are better than relying on offsite labs that take a week or longer for results, LeadingAge Washington believes that our government can and must do better.  The public health and protection of seniors and our staff requires our country to step up in a bold fashion to secure a universal, rapid testing method that produces accurate and timely results.  We also need real PPE and must and can do better than the plastic tarps provided in the FEMA PPE shipments.  We seemingly continue to take half-steps and only partially solve a problem, thereby creating more questions and new challenges.  It is long overdue, but we need our federal partners to take decisive action, under the exercise of Presidential powers, to secure these basic and essential public health tools to protect those most vulnerable to this virus.

That said, when CMS releases a QSO memo with more details, we will keep you updated.  

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) recently announced plans to supply rapid point-of-care testing instruments and tests to nursing homes throughout the country to aid in identification and mitigation of COVID-19. HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir began hinting about these plans over the weekend and HHS confirmed on July 14 through a press release and White House Coronavirus Task Force press conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. CMS followed up with a national nursing homes call on July 15 to provide more details.  Read full article on the LeadingAge website here.




Laura Hofmann, MSN, RN – Director of Clinical and Nursing Facility Regulatory Services
c: 425-231-4804