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It was a fine idea at the time: Safety story of the week!

Now it’s a brilliant…

I think we’ve hung out together long enough for you to recognize that I have some geeky tendencies when it comes to safety and related things, sometimes straying beyond the realm of health care. And this is (pretty much definitely) one of those instances.

Over the weekend, while listening to NPR, I happened upon a story regarding safety concerns at the Tesla factory out in California and how operating at the brink (cusp?) of what’s possible can still fall victim to some time-honored realities of the workplace. The story, coordinated by The Center for Investigative Reporting, and aired on their program Reveal (you can find the story, and a link to the podcast of the story here) aims at shedding some light on some folks injured while employed at Tesla. While I can’t say that there’s the figurative “smoking gun” relative to decisions made, but it does seem to fall under the category of “you can make the numbers dance to whatever tune you’d care to play.” I thought it was a very well-done piece and while there may not be specific application to your workplace, I figure you can always learn from what others are (or aren’t) doing. At any rate, I can’t tell the story as well as they have (the podcast lasts about 55 minutes; the SoundCloud link is about halfway down the page), so I would encourage you to give it a listen.

One other quick item for your consideration: We chatted a few weeks ago about the shifting sands of compliance relative to emergency generator equipment and I wanted to note that I think it would be a pretty good idea to pick up a copy of the 2010 edition of NFPA 110 (it’s not that large a tome) or at the very least, go online and use NFPA’s free access to their code library, and familiarize yourself with the contents. Much as I “fear” will be the case with NFPA 99, I think there are probably some subtleties in 110 that might get lost in the shuffle, particularly when it comes to the contractors and vendors with whom we do business. Recently, I was checking out an emergency generator set that was designed and installed in the last couple of years and, lo and behold, found that the remote stop had not been installed in a location outside of the generator enclosure. Now I know that one of the things you’re paying for is a reasonably intimate knowledge of the applicable code and regulation, and emergency power stuff would be no exception (by any stretch of the imagination) and it perturbed me that the folks doing the install (not naming names, but trust me, this was no mom & pop operation that might not have known better) failed to ensure compliance with the code. Fortunately, it was identified before any “official” survey visits, but it’s still going to require some doing to get things up to snuff.

I have no reason to think that there aren’t other “easter eggs” lurking in the pages of the various and sundry codified elements brought on by the adoption of the 2012 Life Safety Code®, so if you happen to find any, feel free to give us all a shout.

And you may find yourself in another part of the survey process (more HazMat fun)

And you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?

As is sometimes the case, I like to respond to questions from the “studio” audience and last week I received a question from the field that I think is worth a few inches of verbiage here. The question, as luck would have it, relates to the ascendancy of EC.02.02.01 (with 63% of the hospitals being surveyed taking hits), the management of hazardous materials and wastes.

While it may seem a little incongruous, with a side order of daunting, I think that the primary reason for the ascendance of EC.02.02.01 is that there are any number of things that can generate findings, particularly from the clinical surveyors (not that the LS surveyor couldn’t find stuff, but from what I’ve seen in recent survey reports, a lot of the HazMat findings are being generated during “regular” tracers). So, in no particular order:

  • emergency eyewash equipment (availability/accessibility/documentation of testing & maintenance)
  • availability and use of personal protective equipment (PPE) in accordance with product Safety Data Sheets (SDS)
  • management of hazardous energy sources, particularly as it relates to managing lead PPE;
  • labeling of secondary containers
  • management of hazardous gases and vapors (particularly as a function of ventilation, but also monitoring if you happen to have folks still using glutaraldehyde and/or cadmium-based products)
  • ensuring appropriate staff education is in place, particularly Department of Transportation education for staff signing manifests
  • with the odd issue relating to staff being able to competently access SDS

We’ve certainly spent our fair share of time talking about eyewash equipment (surveyors are as prone to over-interpretation as anyone, so you better have a clearly articulated risk assessment in your back pocket), and, interestingly enough, on May 31 (my birthday!), the folks at HCPro are hosting a webinar on the evergreen topic of eyewash stations, so you may want to give that look-see (listen-hear?).

I think the stuff surveyors are kicking folks on is pretty straightforward. I mean, just think about unlabeled or inappropriately labeled secondary containers—what’s the likelihood that you’ve got one out there somewhere in your organization? An unlabeled spray bottle; a biohazard container for which the label was washed off—lots of opportunities for the process to come up short.

At any rate, the list above is representative of what I’ve seen (in consulting practice and in actual survey reports). Anybody have any other potential findings that they’ve seen?

While I hate to do anything to muddy the waters…with paper clips!

Or ear buds…

In the absence of anything particularly controversial on the regulatory front, I tend to go back and cover “old” ground just to see if there are any new resources, altered realities, etc. So, last week I was doing some work that involved helping folks with their ligature risk assessment and was pondering the availability of ligature-resistant fire alarm notification appliances. This pondering led me to my usual primary source for such things, The Design Guide for the Built Behavioral Health Environment (now an offering from the Facilities Guidelines Institute); we’ve discussed the particulars of the Design Guide on any number of occasions, most recently back in late 2016, and hopefully by now everyone has obtained a copy for their e-library. At any rate, I was poking around looking for ligature-resistant fire alarm notification appliances and, lo and behold, I couldn’t find any.

So (as I am wont to do) I headed off to the Googlesphere to see what might be out and about and (in yet another lo and behold moment) found the latest edition of the New York State Office of Mental Health’s Patient Safety Standards, Materials and Systems Guide. As near as I can tell from the webpage, this is the 19th edition of this particular guide, though I will tell you that this is my first encounter and I think it’s pretty spiffy (I’m guessing you folks in the Empire State knew about this and kept it to yourselves…). One of the most interesting elements is that it covers what they recommend (including whether they’ve found the products, etc., to be effective based on the acuity of the setting), but they also list stuff that they have tested and found does not work as advertised (I will admit to being fascinated with the idea that some of these ligature-resistant products can be defeated by strategies as simple as paper clips and/or ear buds—I guess necessity remains the mother of invention). Admittedly, there could be different philosophies in other jurisdictions, but I can really appreciate the thought, analysis, and general effort that went in to this resource and I think the risks/benefits/alternatives are sufficiently clear cut that you could communicate the issues very effectively to those reluctant surveyor types. At any rate, I encourage you (yet again) to add this one to your resource library.

I’ve also learned that as folks work through the various and sundry parameters of the regulatory guidance sets floating around, folks have been considering the management of risks in relatively unsecured (at least in terms of ligature-resistance) common areas (lobbies, stairwells, offices), which (surprise, surprise surprise!) got me to thinking…

I think the appropriate strategy for these other areas needs to start with whatever clinical assessment/determination would need to occur before patients would be able to access unsecured common areas; to my mind, patients that are legitimately at risk of self-harm either need to have services come to them on the secured units or they are sufficiently escorted (sufficiently meaning enough folks to control a situation should it start to get out of hand). By nature, every organization has areas of greater and lesser levels of security, so the “burden of the process” (if you will) is to ensure that patients are not unilaterally exposed to risks greater than their (or, indeed, our) capacity to manage them. While the minimization of physical risk is a safety “function,” ensuring that patients are managed in an appropriate environment is a clinical “function” based on the needs/condition, etc., of the patients. For example, if a patient is clinically “well” enough to have access to the advocate beyond the advocate coming to see them on the unit, then my expectation would be that that determination would be made by the clinical folks, with full knowledge of the involved risks. I think (at least until CMS or someone else provides additional/different interpretations) that going with the stratification used by The Joint Commission, which for all intents and purposes parses out into inpatient psychiatric unit environments, acute care inpatient environments and emergency department environments, should remain the focus of your assessment and risk management activities. After all, the clinical management of the patient must work in concert with efforts to decrease risk in the environment and vice versa—everyone working together is the only thing that’s going to bring us success (which is rather a common strategy…).

Inadvertent inundations: Oh, what fun! 2017 most frequently stubbed toes during survey!

As luck would have it, the latest (April 2018) edition of Perspectives landed on the door step the other day (it’s really tough to pull off the home delivery option now that it is an all-electronic publication) and included therein is not a ton of EC/LS/EM content unless you count (which, of course, we do) the listings of the most frequently cited standards during the 2017 survey season. And, to the continued surprise of absolutely no one that is paying attention, conditions and practices related to the physical environment occupy all 10 of the top spots (I remain firm in my “counting” IC.02.02.01 as a physical environment standard—it’s the intersection of IC and the environment and always will be IMHO).

While there are certainly no surprises as to how this list sorts itself out (though I am a little curious/concerned about the rise of fire alarm and suppression system inspection, testing & maintenance documentation rising to the top spot—makes me wonder what little code-geeky infraction brought on by the adoption of the updated Life Safety Code® and other applicable NFPA standards has been the culprit—maybe some of it is related to annual door inspection activities cited before CMS extended the initial compliance due date), it clearly signals that the surveying of the physical environment is going to be a significant focus for the survey process until such time as it starts to decline in “fruit-bearing.” I do wish that there was a way to figure out for sure which of the findings are coming via the LS survey or during those pesky patient tracer activities (documentation is almost certainly the LS surveyor and I’d wager that a lot of the safe, functional environment findings are coming from tracers), but I guess that’s a data set just beyond our grasp. For those of you interested in how things “fell,” let’s do the numbers (cue: Stormy Weather):

  • #1 with an 86% finding rate – documentation of fire alarm and suppression systems
  • #2 with a 73% finding rate – managing utility systems risks
  • #3 with a 72% finding rate – maintenance of smoke and other lesser barrier elements
  • #4 with a 72% finding rate – risk of infections associated with equipment and supplies
  • #5 with a 70% finding rate – safe, functional environment
  • #6 with a 66% finding rate – maintenance of fire and other greater barrier elements
  • #7 with a 63% finding rate – hazardous materials risk stuff
  • #8 with a 62% finding rate – integrity of egress
  • #9 with a 62% finding rate – inspection, testing & maintenance of utility systems equipment
  • #10 with a 59% finding rate – inspection, testing & maintenance of medical gas & vacuum systems equipment

Again, I can’t imagine that you folks are at all surprised by this, so I guess my question for you all would be this: Does this make you think about changing your organization’s preparation activities or are you comfortable with giving up a few “small” findings and avoiding anything that would get you into big trouble? I don’t know that I’ve heard of any recent surveys in which there were zero findings in the environment (if so, congratulations! And perhaps most importantly: What’s your secret?), so it does look like this is going to be the list for the next little while.

The exodus is here: Are you prepared?

Some say not so much.

First off, many thanks to the standards sleuths out there that assisted on solving last week’s missing EP caper; it’s nice to know that I am not merely orating into the void (oration being a somewhat hyperbolic description of this blog—lend me your eyes!).

Now, on to our continuing coverage of emergency management stuff.

The ECRI report outlining the Top 10 Patient Safety Risks for 2018 (if you missed it last week, you can download it here), does make mention of all-hazards emergency preparedness as #7 on the Top 10 list, though I have to say that their description of the challenges, etc., facing hospitals was whatever word is the opposite of hyperbolic (I did a quick search for antonyms of hyperbolic, but nothing really jumped out at me as being apropos for this discussion), pretty much boiling down to the statement that “facilities that were prepared for…disasters fared better than those that were not.” And while there is a certain inescapable logic to that characterization, I somehow expected something a bit weightier.

That said, the ECRI report does at least indicate that there may have been hospitals that were prepared, which is a little more generous than hospital preparedness was described in the report from our friends at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Health Security (you can find the report here). The opening of the Hopkins report goes a little something like this: “Although the healthcare system is undoubtedly better prepared for disasters than it was before the events of 9/11, it is not well prepared for a large-scale or catastrophic disaster.” Now that is a rather damning pronouncement, and it may be justified, but I’m having a bit of a struggle (based on reading the report) with what data was used in making that particular pronouncement. I’m not even arguing with their recommendations—it all makes abundant sense to me from a practical improvement standpoint—and I think it will to you as well. But (I’m using a lot of “buts” today), I’m having a hard time with the whole “is not well prepared” piece (in full recognition that it is healthcare as a single monolithic entity that is not well prepared). Could hospitals be better prepared? Of course! Will hospitals be better prepared? You betcha! Could hospitals have more and better access to a variety of resources (including, and perhaps most importantly, cooperation with local and regional authorities)? Have the draconian machinations of the federal budgeting process limited the extent to which hospitals can become prepared? Pretty sure that’s a yes…

Could the nation (or parts therein) experience catastrophic events that significantly challenge hospitals’ ability to continue to provide care to patients? Yup. Will the nation (or parts therein) experience catastrophic events that significantly challenge hospitals’ ability to continue to provide care to patients? Probably, and perhaps (given only the weather patterns of the last 12 months or so) sooner rather than later. There have always been (and there always will be) opportunities for hospitals to improve their level(s) of preparedness (preparedness is a journey, it is not a destination), including building in resiliency to infrastructure, resources, command leadership, etc. And while I appreciate the thought and preparation that went into the report, I can’t help but think that somehow this is going to be used to bludgeon hospitals on the regulatory front. In preparation for that possibility, you might find it useful to turn your emergency management folks loose on a gap analysis relative to the recommendations in the report (again, I can’t/won’t argue with the recommendations—I like ’em), just in case your next accreditation surveyor tries to push a little in this realm.

The mystery of the disappearing EP and other tales

I have no way to be certain of the numbers, but I do know of at least one organization that fell victim in 2017 to an Element of Performance (EP) that has since gone “missing.” Once upon a time, EC.02.05.03 (having a reliable emergency electrical source) had an EP (#10, to be precise) that, among other things, required hospital emergency power systems (EPS) to have a remote manual stop station (with an identifying label, natch!) to prevent inadvertent or unintentional operation. (I’m not really sure how a big ol’ stop button that’s labeled would prevent somebody from inadvertently operating the emergency power system; it would surely help if the inadvertent operation happened, but prevention…)

So, to follow this back to the applicable NFPA citation NFPA 110-2010 5.6.5.6, we find “(a)ll installations shall have a remote manual stop station of a type to prevent inadvertent or unintended operation located outside the room housing the prime mover, where so installed, or elsewhere on the premises where the prime mover is located outside the building.” The Explanatory Material goes on to indicate that “(f)or systems located outdoors, the manual shutdown should be located external to the weatherproof enclosure and appropriately identified.” So, that all seems pretty straightforward, don’t you think.

Well, recently (last week) I was working with a hospital that had not bumped into EC.02.05.03, EP 10 and, since I had not yet committed the standard and EP numbers to memory (every time things get changed, I swear to myself that I will not memorize the numbers, but somehow it always ends up happening…), we went to look at the online portal to the standards. And we looked, and looked, and looked some more, and could not find the EP for the remote manual stop. I just figured that I had sufficiently misremembered where this EP, so my plan was to look at survey reports that I know included RFIs for not having the remote manual stops and go from there. So, I looked it up in the survey report, checked the online portal and, guess what? No more EP 10 (in the interest of the complete picture, this EP also requires emergency lighting within 10 seconds at emergency generator locations and a remote annunciator (powered by storage battery) located outside the emergency power system location). Now, from a strict compliance standpoint, as the 2010 edition of NFPA 110 is the applicable code edition based on adoption of the 2012 Life Safety Code® (and I did check the 2013 and 2016 editions, each of which contain the same requirements), I can only guess that the requirements contained in EP 10 are still actionable if your (or anybody else’s) AHJ sees fit to cite a deficiency in this regard, so it’s probably worth keeping a half an eye out for further developments if you have not yet gotten around to installing the lighting, remote stop, and annunciators for your emergency power system equipment locations.

Also, just to alert you to (yet) another offering from ECRI, this past week saw the unveiling of the Top 10 Patient Safety Concerns (download the white paper here). There are a few items on the list that should be of interest to you folks (in bold):

  1. Diagnostic errors
  2. Opioid safety across the continuum of care
  3. Care coordination within a setting
  4. Workarounds
  5. Incorporating health IT into patient safety programs
  6. Management of behavioral health needs in acute care settings
  7. All-hazards emergency preparedness
  8. Device cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization
  9. Patient engagement and health literacy
  10. Leadership engagement in patient safety

I haven’t delved too much into the latest emergency preparedness stuff (ECRI’s take, as well as the Johns Hopkins report), but I’ve queued that up on my reading list for this week, just as soon as I dig out from our most recent wintry spectacular—currently raging outside my window, so I’m going to send this on its way before the power gets too dodgy…

Cylindrical musings and nudging as a compliance strategy

Howdy, folks. After surviving the battering of this past weekend’s tumultuous weather in the Northeast (I got to experience it twice—once in Indiana and again back home), I’m going to be (relatively) brief for this week’s missive.

First up, hopefully most of you are familiar with the TED Talks concept (all the info you need about that you can find here) and NPR has a weekly program that kind of crystallizes some of the TED offerings in their TED Radio Hour. This past weekend (no TV, so we had to huddle around the radio, just like in olden times), the program revolved around the use of gentle pushes or nudges to change behaviors (you can hear that broadcast here). As safety professionals, I think we are all acquainted with the various attempts to get folks to do our bidding when it comes to safe practice (that sounds a little authoritarian, but it’s kinda what we’re up against) and I thought the entire program really gave me some food for thought in how we might come at compliance from a slightly different perspective. I thought some of the ideas were fascinating and definitely worth sharing, so if you have a spare 55 minutes or so (the webpage above does break it out into the individual sections of the broadcast—I think it’s all good, but whatever description seems most interesting to you would be a good starting point), you might give it a whirl…

I also want to bring you some hopeful news on the cylinder storage segregation front; when this whole focus started, quite a few folks were cited for storing non-full (empty or partial) cylinders in the same location as full cylinders. I don’t know when The Joint Commission posted the updated FAQ on cylinder storage, but, and I quote, “Full and partially full cylinders are permitted to be stored together, unless the organization’s policy requires further segregation.” I know this whole thing was the bane of a lot of folks’ existence, particularly after we had to work so diligently to get folks to secure the cylinders properly, only to have this little paradigm shift towards the edge of darkness. I believe that this will make things somewhat simpler in the execution (make sure your policy reflects the allowance for full and partials to be stored together—they’ll be looking to review that policy).

As a final, non-safety note, I just flew cross-country and was able to watch Gary Oldman’s performance as Winston Churchill in Darkest Hour. I’ve always been something of a history buff, with World War II as a central theme and must tell you that I thought it was a really great performance and a fine movie (or is it a film?). It really points out the power of consensus and the use of the spoken word to galvanize folks (which kind of ties back to the nudging—though Sir Winston’s nudge packed a lot of wallop). At any rate, I thought it was very well done (no surprise about the Best Actor Oscar) and probably my favorite since Lincoln (the movie, not the car or President…though Lincoln in the Bardo was a very interesting book…).

’Tis the season…for more emergency management goodness!

Recognizing the somewhat hyperbolic nature of this week’s headline (you need only listen to current news/weather feeds to be able to determine that emergencies are not quite as seasonal as perhaps they once were…), I did want to share one more emergency management-related nugget with you (I do try to mix things up, but until I start seeing some “hard” survey results—or some regulatory panjandrum makes some sort of announcement, I’m going to keep seeding this space with various and sundry bits of stuff), this coming to us from the left coast, aka California.

While I have little doubt that you Californians in the audience are familiar with the California Department of Public Health (CDPH—four scary letters, though perhaps not as scary as OSHPD for the facilities folks in Cali) requirements for workplace emergency plans (which is highlighted in this month’s CDPH Occupational Health Watch), I think that there might well be some useful information for folks in other parts of the country (I have found, over some few years of experience, that regulatory tsunamis can start in California and find their way to all manner of locales). To be honest (and why else would we be here?), the plan elements required (or at least the ones the surveyors want to see) by the usual regulatorily-inclined suspects, are frequently not quite as useful from an operational preparedness/mitigation/response/recovery standpoint (they provide a useful structure for the aforementioned quartet, but when it comes down to doing the do, again, sometimes not so much).

At any rate, the Cal/OSHA Emergency Action Plan requirements, provide (at least in my mind—feel free to disagree) a good basic sense of the pieces to have in place that are not necessarily as patient-focused. When the fecal matters starts impacting the rapidly rotation turbine blades, it’s important to have a structure in place that addresses the employee aspect, particularly for those of you with offsite non-clinical operations (billing, finance, HR, etc.: a lot of folks don’t have enough space at the main campus for all the moving pieces that constitute a healthcare organization). So, here’s the California stuff (and please feel free to share any good stuff your state might have on the books—this is all about getting prepared and staying prepared—every little bit helps):

(b) Elements. The following elements, at a minimum, shall be included in the plan:

(1) Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments;

(2) Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate;

(3) Procedures to account for all employees after emergency evacuation has been completed;

(4) Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties;

(5) The preferred means of reporting fires and other emergencies; and

(6) Names or regular job titles of persons or departments who can be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan.

(c) Alarm System.

(1) The employer shall establish an employee alarm system which complies with Article 165 (link to that info here).

(2) If the employee alarm system is used for alerting fire brigade members, or for other purposes, a distinctive signal for each purpose shall be used.

(d) Evacuation. The employer shall establish in the emergency action plan the types of evacuation to be used in emergency circumstances.

(e) Training.

(1) Before implementing the emergency action plan, the employer shall designate and train a sufficient number of persons to assist in the safe and orderly emergency evacuation of employees.

(2) The employer shall advise each employee of his/her responsibility under the plan at the following times:

(A) Initially when the plan is developed,

(B) Whenever the employee’s responsibilities or designated actions under the plan change, and

(C) Whenever the plan is changed.

(3) The employer shall review with each employee upon initial assignment those parts of the plan which the employee must know to protect the employee in the event of an emergency. The written plan shall be kept at the workplace and made available for employee review. For those employers with 10 or fewer employees the plan may be communicated orally to employees and the employer need not maintain a written plan.

 

I hope this provides you with some useful (and perhaps even thoughtful) information as we roll through emergency year 2018. I am hoping for a time of minimal impact for communities this year (I think we had just about enough last year), but the oddness of the weather patterns over the past couple of months gives me pause. (I live in the Boston area and Houston and its environs had snow before we did!)

Emergency Management Monkeyshines: All Things Must Pass…

Sometimes like a kidney stone, but nonetheless…

Before we dive into this week’s “content,” I have a thought for you to ponder as to the nature of basing future survey results on the results of surveys past (rather Dickensian, the results of surveys past): Recognizing that authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) always reserve the right to disagree with any decision you’ve ever made or, indeed, anything they (or any other AHJ) have told you in the past, how long are existing waivers and/or equivalencies good for? Hopefully this ponderable will not visit itself upon you or your organization, but one must be prepared for any (and every) eventuality. Which neatly brings us to:

In digging around past emails and such, I noticed that I had not visited the Department of Health and Human Services Healthcare Emergency Preparedness Gateway in rather a while and what to my wondering eyes should appear but some updated info and a link to CMS that I think you’ll find useful. So, the current headlines/topics:

  • Considerations for the Use of Temporary Care Locations for Managing Seasonal Patient Surge
  • Pediatric Issues in Disasters Webinar
  • 2017 Hurricane Response – Resources for Children with Special Health Care Needs
  • Supporting Non-resident/Foreign Citizen Patients
  • A new issue of The Exchange newsletter
  • A link to the CMS Emergency Preparedness Final Rule surveyor training (you can find the information available to providers here). Unfortunately, the post-test is not available to providers, but sometimes it’s like that.

It is my intent over the next little while to check out the education package, so I will let you know if I have any grave reservations about the content, etc., or if I think you need to earmark it for priority viewing.

So, kind of brief this week, but I’m sure there’ll be more to discuss in the not too distant future. And so, with the end of wintah on the horizon, I wish you a moderately temperate week!

There’s no such thing as someone else’s code: Infection control and the environment (again…)

Periodically, I field questions from folks that require a little bit (well, perhaps sometimes more than a little) of conjecture. Recently, I received a question regarding the requirements in ASHRAE 170-2008 regarding appropriate pressure relationships in emergency department and radiology waiting rooms (ASHRAE 170-2008 says those areas would be under negative pressure, with the caveat that the requirement applies only to “waiting rooms programmed to hold patients awaiting chest x-rays for diagnosis of respiratory disease”).

Right now, that particular question is kind of the elephant in the room from a regulatory perspective; there is every indication that The Joint Commission/CMS are working their way through ASHRAE 170-2008 and have yet to make landfall on this particular requirement—as far as I know—feel free to disabuse me of that notion. The intent of the requirement (as I interpret it) is to have some fundamental protections in place to ensure that an isolated respiratory contagion does not have the capacity of becoming a legitimate outbreak because of inadequate ventilation. Now, you could certainly use the annual infection control program risk assessment to identify whether your waiting rooms are “programmed to hold patients awaiting chest x-rays for diagnosis of respiratory disease” based on the respiratory disease data from the local community (and you might be able to obtain data from a larger geographic area, which one might consider a “buffer zone”).

Best case scenario results in you being able to take this completely off the table from a risk standpoint, next best would be that you introduce protocols for respiratory patients that remove them from the general waiting rooms (depending on the potential numbers, you may not have the space for it), worst case being that you have to modify the current environment to provide appropriate levels of protection. The notation for this requirement does provide some relief for folks with a recirculating air system in these areas, which allows for HEPA filters to be used instead of exhausting the air from these spaces to the outdoors, providing the return air passes through the HEPA filters before it introduced into any other spaces.

Knowing what I do about some of the ventilation challenges folks have, I suspect that it may make more sense to pursue the HEPA filtration setup than it would be to try to bring each of the spaces under negative pressure, but (going out on a limb here) that might be a question best answered by a group of knowledgeable folks (including an individual of the mechanical engineering persuasion) as a function of the (wait for it…) risk assessment process.

Ultimately, it comes down to what the Authority Having Jurisdiction chooses to enforce; that said, it might be worth having someone work through your state channels or by putting the question to the Standards Interpretation Group at Joint Commission (I suspect that their response would not be not particularly instructive beyond the usual “do a risk assessment” strategy, but there is a new person running the Engineering group at TJC, so perhaps something a little more helpful might be forthcoming). At any rate, as noted above, I’ve not heard of this being cited, but I also know that if there’s an outbreak tied to inadequate ventilation somewhere, this could become a hot topic pretty quickly (probably not as hot as ligature risks at the moment, but you never know…).