By Patrick Formato, Barbara Phair and Frank Mazzagatti
On April 29, 2020, the NYS Department of Health (“DOH”) issued two Dear Administrator letters which are summarized below:
Return to Work for Healthcare Personnel:
The DOH will no longer follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) criteria for healthcare employees with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 to return to work. Effective immediately, the DOH has mandated the following criteria:
- Nursing home employees who test positive for COVID-19 but remained asymptomatic are not eligible to return to work for 14 days from the first positive test.
- Nursing home employees who are symptomatic may not return to work until 14 days after the onset of symptoms, provided at least three (3) days have passed since resolution of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications and respiratory symptoms are otherwise improving.
An online portal has been established for nursing homes experiencing staffing difficulties that currently includes over 95,000 healthcare workers and partner organizations from which staffing may be procured. Access the portal at CovidStaffingPortal@exec.ny.gov or call (518) 474-2012.
Facility Obligations to Provide Adequate Care to Residents:
DOH underscored the obligations of nursing homes under the Public Health Law to accept and retain only those residents for whom the facility can provide adequate care. In light of ongoing COVID-19 concerns, nursing homes must adhere to appropriate safety measures, including:
- restricting visitation, except for imminent end-of-life situations;
- ensuring that personal protective equipment (“PPE”) is worn by staff when interacting with residents suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19;
- requiring all staff to be checked for COVID-19 symptoms including temperature checks at the start of their shift and every 12-hours while on duty;
- notifying al residents and their family members within 24 hours if any resident tests positive for COVID-19 or any COVID-19 deaths;
- having protocols to separate residents into cohorts of positive, negative and unknown COVID-19 status as well as separate staffing teams.
If a nursing home is unable to meet cohorting standards or any infection control standards, it must suspend all admissions. Failure to comply will result in the imposition of civil monetary penalties and/or revocation of the facility’s Operating Certificate.
The healthcare attorneys at Abrams Fensterman are committed to providing you with the most current and accurate information and guidance during this COVID-19 pandemic. Should you have questions, feel free to contact Patrick Formato, Esq., Barbara Stegun Phair, Esq., Frank A. Mazzagatti, Esq., or any other attorney in our health law practice group.