Critical Blood Shortage in New England

Nursing Home Staff Must Get Vaccinated

DPH issued a COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Order last week mandating that all staff in nursing homes be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by October 10, 2021.
The order applies to all “individuals employed by or affiliated with the facility, whether directly, by contract with another entity, or as an independent contractor, paid or unpaid including, but not limited to, employees, members of the medical staff, contract employees or staff, students, and volunteers who either work at or come to the licensed facility site, whether or not such individual(s) provide direct care."
Such individuals must receive a first dose of a vaccine, if they are receiving a two-dose series, by September 1, 2021, and be fully vaccinated by October 10. The facilities then must report their staff vaccinations to DPH.
As of October 10, DPH will have the authority to order any nursing home that has fewer than 75% of its personnel vaccinated against COVID-19 to stop accepting new admissions until the 75% threshold is met. In announcing the order, the state said there are 378 skilled nursing facilities, as well as the two Soldiers’ Homes in Massachusetts that are affected by the order. As of August 2, 155 of the facilities had less than 75% of their staff fully vaccinated.
MHA’s Board of Trustees on July 29 voted unanimously to adopt a statewide consensus policy requiring mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all Massachusetts hospital and health system employees.

New England Facing "Severe" Blood Shortages

New England states are currently facing one of the most severe blood shortages in recent years, which is affecting, among other things, the scheduling of necessary surgeries.
MHA, in cooperation with the hospital associations of Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont produced this video calling on the public to donate blood.
Summertime is historically a time of blood shortages, but this year the low supplies of blood across New England is unprecedented. General uncertainty about COVID-19 may be contributing to people’s reticence about giving blood. According to the Red Cross, individuals who received the COVID-19 vaccine are eligible to give blood, platelets, and plasma. Most donation sites will want to know the name of the manufacturer of the vaccine you received. Donating blood after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine does not reduce a donor’s protection from the virus.
You can sign up to give blood by visiting RedCrossBlood.org or by contacting your local hospital.

Results of MHQP's Telehealth Survey

The use of telehealth surged because of COVID-19 as patients early in the pandemic were urged to stay away from care facilities. As hospitals and doctor’s offices once again encouraged patients back to ensure the delivery of needed care, telehealth remained a vibrant part of how care is delivered. Now the Mass. Health Quality Partners (MHQP) has released a summary analysis based on the telehealth surveys it has conducted throughout the pandemic that gauge both consumer and clinician feelings towards telehealth.
“The patients we surveyed had an overwhelmingly positive experience with telehealth,” MHQP reported last week. “When asked about their overall satisfaction with telehealth, 89% of patients who responded said it was either ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good.’ Only 3% said it was either ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor.’”
“We asked providers about their experiences with video and telephone separately," MHQP continued. "In contrast to patients, only 43% of providers reported that their experience with video was either ‘Excellent’ or ‘Very Good,’ and 46% of providers gave their phone experience one of those ratings. 30% and 27% of providers gave their video and phone experiences (respectfully) a rating of ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor.’”
MHQP stressed that the clinician responses seemed to correlate to the networks in which they operated. The MHQP posting states, "These results seem to indicate that the organizational approach and choice of telehealth technology may have a significant impact on provider experience and suggest that they are important opportunities for improvement in network-specific telehealth performance." (MHQP also stressed that the clinician samples were rather small and that the conclusions should be approached with caution.) 
Patients like telehealth for its convenience and for quality and safety reasons during the pandemic, but they recognized its limitations. Providers were more apt to complain about “technology hassles.”
MHQP said the pandemic forced the healthcare system into "a massive experiment" with telehealth. The tMED Coalition, of which MHA is a member along with providers, advocates, and digital care companies across the state, continues to collaborate and inform healthcare organizations on how to integrate telehealth programs that are seamless for both the user and provider experience, as well as how to increase clinician familiarization, while minimizing discomfort, with the new technologies. 

Recall of Some Forms of Ultrasound Gel

DPH warned hospitals last week about a potential infection source that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration are investigating along with some state and local health departments.
Burkholderia cepacia complex infections seem to be tied to ultrasound procedures in which MediChoice M500812 ultrasound gel was used. Patients have developed infections, including blood stream infections.
On August 4, the manufacturer of MediChoice M500812 ultrasound gel (Eco-Med Pharmaceutical, Etobicoke, of Ontario, Canada) issued a recall of specific lots and urged healthcare facilities to either destroy or return the affected products. Other brand names are included in the recall, details of which are in this notice

Final IPPS Rule Released

Last week, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued the 2022 Final Inpatient Prospective Payment System rule that affects acute care hospitals. The IPPS is the main contract between hospitals and the Medicare program.
The final rule increases operating payment rates for acute care hospitals that successfully participate in the Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program and are meaningful electronic health record users; the increase totals approximately 2.5%. The final rule also extends the add-on payment for new COVID-19 treatments through the year in which the current public health emergency ends.
On September 14, MHA will provide an educational program that will delve deep into the voluminous rule. See details of the program and a registration link at the top of this Monday Report. 

Transitions: Sturdy & Baystate

Sturdy Memorial Hospital has selected Aimee Brewer as its next president and CEO, effective October 4. She comes to Sturdy from NorthBay Healthcare Group in Fairfield, Calif., where she serves as president. Brewer replaces President & CEO Joseph Casey, who has led the facility for three years and who announced his retirement in February after a 39-year career at Sturdy Memorial. Brewer has a BS from Simmons College and an MPH from the University of New Hampshire.
Frank Cracolici, R.N., has been named interim president of Baystate Medical Center, having most recently served as senior advisor to the CEO of Morton Hospital in Taunton. Previously, Cracolici was the president and CEO of St. Vincent Medical Center, part of Verity Health System, in Los Angeles. He replaces Nancy Shendell-Falik. 
Cracolici is a Johnson & Johnson Fellow from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and has a Master of Professional Studies, Health Services Administration and a BA in Business and Health Services Administration from the New School for Social Research in New York, New York. He earned his Diploma of Nursing at the Englewood Hospital and Medical Center School of Nursing in Englewood, New Jersey.

The Final 2022 Hospital Inpatient PPS Rule

Tuesday, September 14; 1 - 3 p.m.

Join us at MHA’s annual program to review the final inpatient PPS rule. We’ll cover all of the critical changes and updates important to hospitals. Learn from expert speaker Valerie Rinkle during this virtual session as she covers important updates surrounding IPPS 2022, including:
Financial updates to standardized amounts, changes to codes, and new and potential future MS-DRG group changes and recalibration; 
New technologies approved for add-on payment and how to ensure appropriate payment given caps;
Recent changes to cost reporting and their importance for reimbursement and rate-setting;
Uncompensated care and healthcare equity gaps and proposals to close the gaps; and 
Promoting interoperability and quality program changes.

Register for this important program by clicking here

John LoDico, Editor