Photo: NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach.
Safety of community-based care providers is a priority.
America is facing a shortage of available personal protective equipment (PPE). Hospice and palliative care providers are no exception and are facing increased challenges to providing care for vulnerable patients and families while also protecting their workforce. Providers have shared the grim realities of the nationwide PPE shortage, with one noting they have zero N95 masks and less than 200 surgical masks, another sharing that they have no shields and only a week’s worth of gowns, and a third noting they had resorted to ordering industrial style paint masks from Amazon but those are no longer available for purchase.
To address these concerns, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization is working to advocate for both regulatory and statutory changes to ensure hospice and palliative care providers are designated as a priority for the distribution of PPE.
On the regulatory front, NHPCO has worked with a coalition of community-based care providers to advocate before FEMA about PPE access. The coalition includes the American Network of Community Options and Resources, Council of State Home Care & Hospice Associations, Home Care Association of America, National Association for Home Care & Hospice, Partnership for Medicaid Home-Based Care, and Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare. The coalition statement asked FEMA to “grant priority status to the community-based home care, hospice, palliative care, and disability service providers in accessing PPE for the delivery of healthcare services and long-term services and supports during the COVID-19 public health emergency.”
Our request is supported by the recent announcement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) declaring that the delivery of healthcare services are considered essential ‘to help State and local officials as they work to protect their communities, while ensuring continuity of functions critical to public health and safety, as well as economic and national security.’”
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has declared that the delivery of health care services including hospice is considered essential. However, their designation also stated that “this list is advisory in nature. It is not, nor should it be considered to be, a federal directive or standard in and of itself.”
NHPCO followed up with CISA in a letter on March 27, stating, “The hospice and palliative care community is relying on the CISA list as one form of identification for hospice as critical infrastructure workers. We need this designation to be identified as priority for the distribution of PPE. Anything stronger that can be stated during this national emergency would be essential for many community-based providers to continue to care for vulnerable and very sick patients.”
“NHPCO members across the country are looking to Congress and the Administration for solutions for PPE shortages. Our members provide critically important care in their communities, and that need will only grow. We will continue to advocate for hospice and palliative care providers during this difficult time, and we are committed to exploring every possible avenue to get these teams the equipment they need,” said NHPCO President and CEO Edo Banach.
NHPCO is also working with national stakeholders and advocating before Congress for a change in statute that can be included in a future coronavirus response bill that clarifies that hospice and other community-based care providers are granted priority access to PPE when distribution is being overseen by FEMA.
NHPCO looks forward to our continued collaboration with CMS, Congress and the Administration as we work together to address the evolving needs of a country facing a national emergency.
As the attention of the world remains focused on COVID-19, NHPCO offers relevant and timely resources for community-based hospice providers serving patients and families where they live at nhpco.org/coronavirus.