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I may not be perfect, but I’m perfect for you: CMS rates the accreditation organizations!

Another mixed bag of stuff for you this week, leading off with a quick spin through CMS’ report card to Congress.

While the numbers have shifted around a little, infection control is making a move on the outside, but the physical environment is still the big point of focus, though you can see where the two are starting to cross over at a greater frequency. I think issues relating to ligature risks are going to be a very sharp focus, particularly with CMS surveys. Although it is interesting to note that (at least at the moment) when ligature risks come up in the CMS survey process, those risks have been cited under the Patient Rights Condition of Participation (each patient has a right to receive care in a safe setting), so we may see Patient Rights at the top of the heap next year. One way you can avoid that little dance of ignominy is to make sure that you have completed a comprehensive ligature risk assessment in those areas in which you are managing behavioral health patients, including mitigation strategies for items that cannot be immediately corrected and solid anticipated completion dates. They are taking ligature risks very seriously because of the potential for harm to patients and you don’t want to have a whole lot of open-ended plans of correction. It almost comes down to a sense that everything that exists is a potential risk to be managed and while I am hopeful that cooler heads will prevail, right now this is a very, very hot topic.

One other thing to note with the report card is a section that deals with an analysis of survey disparity relating to Life Safety Code® compliance and health and safety considerations. I’ve looked at the contents of this section, including their conclusions and recommendations, and I have a hard time thinking that this is ever going to go away as a survey focus. While I tend not to rely on absolutes when it comes to periods of time, I can say quite confidently that there will always be stuff to find during a survey. You can look today and find stuff, you can look tomorrow and find different stuff, you can look the day after and—you guessed it! Stuff happens; people do stuff we don’t want them to, including unauthorized field modifications. The list is literally and figuratively endless. I know they have to find something, but as a collective, I think most hospitals are very well maintained and managed as a function of the physical environment. But if the big “C” knocks on the door (and I guess we have to include the minions as well), there’s going to be a list of stuff. Our job is to keep that list to a minimum. Good luck with that!

You may want to smoke during surveys

I could have sworn that I had covered this last year, but I can find no indication that I ever got past the title of this little piece of detritus, so I guess better late than never.

One of the more interestingly painful survey findings that I’ve come across hinge on the use of a household item that previously had caused little angst in survey circles—I speak of the mighty tissue paper! There has been any number of survey dings resulting from tissue paper either being blown or sucked in the wrong direction, based on whether a space is supposed to be positive or negative. And this lovely little finding has generated a fair amount of survey distress as it usually (I can’t say all, but I don’t know of this coming up in a survey in which the following did not occur) drives a follow-up visit from CMS as a Condition-level finding under Physical Environment/Infection Control.

The primary “requirements” in this regard reside under A-Tag 0726 and can be found below. Now I’m thinking that tissue paper might not be the most efficacious measure of pressure relationships, which (sort of—give me a little leeway here) begs the question of whether you should be prepared to “smoke” the doorway/window/etc. for which the tissue paper might not be as sensitive to the subtleties of pressures. I think it’s a reasonable thing to plan for—as much because there can be a whole lot at stake.  So, I’ll ask you to review the materials below and be prepared to discuss…


(Rev. 37, Issued: 10-17-08; Effective/Implementation Date: 10-17-08)

§482.41(c)(4) – There must be proper ventilation, light, and temperature controls in pharmaceutical, food preparation, and other appropriate areas.

Interpretive Guidelines §482.41(c)(4)

There must be proper ventilation in at least the following areas:

• Areas using ethylene oxide, nitrous oxide, glutaraldehydes, xylene, pentamidine, or other potentially hazardous substances;

• Locations where oxygen is transferred from one container to another;

• Isolation rooms and reverse isolation rooms (both must be in compliance with Federal and State laws, regulations, and guidelines such as OSHA, CDC, NIH, etc.);

• Pharmaceutical preparation areas (hoods, cabinets, etc.); and

• Laboratory locations.


There must be adequate lighting in all the patient care areas, and food and medication preparation areas.

Temperature, humidity and airflow in the operating rooms must be maintained within acceptable standards to inhibit bacterial growth and prevent infection, and promote patient comfort. Excessive humidity in the operating room is conducive to bacterial growth and compromises the integrity of wrapped sterile instruments and supplies. Each operating room should have separate temperature control. Acceptable standards such as from the Association of Operating Room Nurses (AORN) or the American Institute of Architects (AIA) should be incorporated into hospital policy.

The hospital must ensure that an appropriate number of refrigerators and/or heating devices are provided and ensure that food and pharmaceuticals are stored properly and in accordance with nationally accepted guidelines (food) and manufacturer’s recommendations (pharmaceuticals).

Survey Procedures §482.41(c)(4)

• Verify that all food and medication preparation areas are well lighted.

• Verify that the hospital is in compliance with ventilation requirements for patients with contagious airborne diseases, such as tuberculosis, patients receiving treatments with hazardous chemical, surgical areas, and other areas where hazardous materials are stored.

• Verify that food products are stored under appropriate conditions (e.g., time, temperature, packaging, location) based on a nationally-accepted source such as the United States Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, or other nationally-recognized standard.

• Verify that pharmaceuticals are stored at temperatures recommended by the product manufacturer.

• Verify that each operating room has temperature and humidity control mechanisms.

• Review temperature and humidity tracking log(s) to ensure that appropriate temperature and humidity levels are maintained.


Kind of vague, yes indeedy do! Purposefully vague—all in the eye of the beholder. Lots of verification and ensuring work, if you ask me, but this should give you a sense of some of the things about which you might consider focusing a little extra attention.