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Capitol Correspondence - 07.13.21

Big Picture: Hospitals Call for Delay on OSHA COVID-19 Safety Guidance

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The content below can help our members understand the broader policy discussions surrounding recently implemented federal labor regulations seeking to ensure the safety of workers in health care settings during the pandemic. This article refers to advocacy efforts pushing back on the regulations and seeking a longer comment period. However, as of the time of this writing, stakeholder comments remain due on July 21, 2021.

As reported by InsideHealthPolicy:

“Hospitals and providers want the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to delay its emergency temporary standards that are meant to protect health care workers via barriers and increased sanitation requirements, arguing the new requirements are redundant, burdensome and poorly timed as COVID-19 begins to turn a corner due to vaccines.

OSHA’s emergency temporary standards became effective June 21, the same day the rule was published in the Federal Register. Stakeholders have until July 21 to comment, but the American Hospital Association is asking for another 30 days to review the 916-page rule.

The emergency temporary standards require hospitals, nursing homes, physicians and other providers dealing with potentially COVID-19 positive patients to develop a workplace-specific hazard assessment, supply personnel protective equipment to each employee, keep people at six feet apart and install solid barriers in non-patient care areas, among others.

The agency says current standards and regulations provide health care workers inadequate protection and the new regulations are needed to protect them from the grave danger OSHA says COVID-19 presents.

[…]

But providers and hospitals are not convinced the rule is necessary.

The Medical Group Management Association [MGMA] points out providers have been on the front lines for more than 18 months buying PPE, screening patients and workers for COVID-19 and following CDC cleaning and disinfection practices. Group practices are already subject to state requirements to protect health care workers, the group adds.

‘Implementing a new layer of requirements at this late stage of the public health emergency (PHE) is duplicative, confusing, and will divert time and resources away from patient care,’ MGMA says in a letter sent to Walsh Wednesday (June 30).

MGMA wants OSHA to rescind the standards or at a minimum delay their effective date so stakeholders have enough time to comment on them.

[…]

Hospitals want to know how they are supposed to comply with differences between OSHA’s emergency temporary standards requirements and the CDC guidelines. Specifically, they’re concerned putting barriers between staff could impede airflow and that disinfecting a room after every aerosol-generating procedure, like intubation, tracheotomy or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, might affect patients who are still in the room.”