Fire safety compliance still troubles SNFs, deficiencies loom

Despite a five-year phase-in plan, more than 1,200 nursing homes are still not in complete compliance with the fire sprinkler regulations required for participation in the Medicare/Medicaid programs, according to a 10-page memo from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

CMS used the most recent survey data to establish its June 2013 list of facilities that are “partially sprinklered” or “not sprinklered.” Nearly every state in the country has at least one facility that is not in complete compliance. Most states have mulitple nursing homes that have some sprinklers, but not in all the required areas of the buildings, such as overhangs and canopies.

Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas each have more than 10 skilled nursing facilities with no sprinklers at all—Illinois has nearly 20.

CMS acknowledged that some of the deficiencies noted in its data may have been remedied, since the site surveys that produced the data could have been conducted many months earlier.

The fire safety sprinkler requirement stems from a federal rule, “Medicare and Medicaid Programs: Fire Safety Requirements for Long Term Care Facilities, Automatic Sprinkler Systems,” established in 2008. The deadline for compliance was August 13.

The regulations require that any space accessible by residents must have sprinkler coverage. Facilities that are not fully compliant with the sprinkler rules will receive a deficiency tag of K056 and a scope and severity rating of D, E or F. Those with no sprinklers at all will automatically receive an F.

Sites with deficiencies have three months to remedy them or be denied CMS reimbursements for their new admissions. Those who fail to provide the proper sprinkler coverage after six months will be terminated from Medicare participation, the memo states.

CMS has no authority to grant extensions or exceptions, although the memo urges sites that delayed the installation of full sprinkler systems because of planned renovations or new building projects to discuss their situations with their state’s survey agency.

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