As of this writing, COVID-19 deaths have surpassed 400,000 in the U.S. alone. While the virus has touched nearly every corner of society, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) have been particularly hard-hit.
Employees are scared—and rightly so. Many have gotten sick and others surely will follow. Likewise, residents in facilities throughout the country have succumbed to the virus. Living and working through COVID-19 will deeply impact the psyche of current employees for the rest of their careers. It also will impact your recruitment efforts.
It’s essential, therefore, that moving forward, SNFs do everything in their power to promote a safe and healthy environment throughout their facility; administer sick and family leave requirements properly and effectively; and facilitate wellness initiatives for all employees across their organization. Strategies include:
Boosting infection prevention and control efforts.
The need for infection prevention and control has always been important in skilled nursing settings. And as COVID-19 continues to leave its indelible impression, expectations around infection prevention and control will almost certainly rise among residents, loved ones, regulators and even staff. In fact, according to surveys tracked by the CMS, more than one-third of facilities still don’t follow proper hand washing guidelines, and one-fourth don’t use PPE properly. SNFs must take action now. The COVID-19 crisis spawned an acute shortage in PPE, and as of this writing, there’s no end in sight. Yet, even with inadequate PPE, five strategies can help SNFs boost infection prevention and control:
Commit to practicing optimal hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene: Proper hand washing is about frequency as well as technique. Skilled nursing staff should thoroughly wash their hands after touching a resident, after touching linens and before and after eating. As for respiratory hygiene, it’s as simple as using the crook of your elbow to cough into, rather than your hands.
Properly don and doff PPE: Check out the CDC guidelines for best practice steps.
Wear a mask – even a simple one if necessary: While a mask does offer the wearer some protection, the more vital function it serves is protecting others – i.e., residents, staff and visitors – from aerosolized droplets in the surrounding air.
Leverage creativity: Empower everyone on your staff to think outside the box in order to devise practical and useful ways to protect residents and staff.
Make sure your facility’s disaster plan includes outbreak plans and policies: SNFs and other acute-care facilities have policies and procedures in place to prevent and control infections, including policies around PPE inventory. The time to devise and deploy those in your facility is now.
Ensuring compliance by administering sick and family leave requirements properly and effectively.
On April 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor implemented a temporary new action regarding how U.S. workers and employers will benefit from the protections and relief offered by the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (EPSLA) and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLEA), both part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).
Specifically, the FFCRA requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide 12 weeks of protected leave to eligible employees if an employee’s child is not able to attend school or day care for COVID-19-related reasons. This new requirement amends the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and will expire Dec. 31, 2020.
Additionally, all employees, regardless of their length of employment, are now eligible for up to two weeks (80 hours) paid sick leave under the EPSLA if they are unable to work because the employee is quarantined or is experiencing symptoms. This leave is in addition to any paid sick leave, vacation or personal time off that employers currently offer.
If you’re a CFO or controller, we recommend studying these new requirements, understanding their impacts on your organization’s financial position and confirming with your accounting department which employees are utilizing these programs. Benefits that are paid out to those employees would then reduce your LTPAC’s payroll tax liability for that pay period.
For payroll tax returns that are submitted each pay period, CFOs and/or controllers must ensure that these pieces are lined up and cohesive. From there, make sure your HR and accounting staffs are communicating effectively so that those benefit payments are accounted for in each pay period, and your LTPAC isn’t overpaying.
Facilitating wellness initiatives for all employees across their organization.
SNFs are highly charged and demanding work environments, and dedicated professionals often place job responsibilities ahead of other things, including their personal health. That can exact a heavy price—on the employee and your facility if they miss work due to illness. Best practice workplace wellness initiatives are proven to reduce stress, absenteeism and illness while boosting engagement and self-confidence. Make sure your benefits plan includes a robust wellness program, and encourage staff to participate.