Mar 29 2017

Quarterly Fire Drills

Category: Fire Drills,Joint Commission,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: There is a matrix floating around on the web that describes Joint Commission’s compliance for fire drills. It breaks the quarters down as Q1=January, February, March, and Q2=April, May, June, etc. Does this mean that for a first shift drill last run in April, we can have the next drill run in September and still be compliant, + or – 10 days?

A: No, not for Joint Commission. In their Overview to the Environment of Care chapter in the Hospital Accreditation Standards manual, Joint Commission says quarterly or once per quarter means “every three months, plus or minus 10 days”. Now, I’ve heard Joint Commission engineers say they will allow this to be interpreted as follows: If the drill was conducted on April 15, that means three months from April is July. July plus 10 days means August 10 and July minus 10 days means June 20. So, according to the engineers from The Joint Commission, the window of opportunity is 51 days: from June 20 to August 10. That scenario would apply to any date the drill was conducted in April.

But to be honest, the Overview of the Joint Commission manual doesn’t say that. Other people are interpreting the Overview to mean if the drill was conducted on April 15, then 3 months after that is July 15. July 15 plus 10 days is July 25, and July 15 minus 10 days is July 5. That leaves you with a 20-day window of opportunity. 20 days is significantly less than 51 days, so you will be at the mercy of the surveyor to determine which one they enforce.

But in the past year, CMS has stated unofficially that they do not like any scenario that allows more than 3 months for a fire drill. In other words, they don’t mind the “every three months, minus 10 days”, but they don’t like the “every three months, plus 10 days”.


Aug 31 2016

Enforcement Date for the 2012 LSC

Category: CMS,Joint Commission,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: Can you provide some clarification? The NFPA 101 2012 edition was adopted July 5th is that correct? Joint Commission and CMS will not be reviewing using this current edition until November 1, 2016 is this also correct? Wheeled equipment once being use for patient care can now remain in the corridor?

A: Yes… CMS adopted the 2012 Life Safety Code on May 4, 2016 with an effective date set for July 5, 2016. However, they soon issued a S&C memo on June 20, 2016, that said while the new 2012 LSC is still effective on July 5, 2016, they will not enforce the requirements of the new code until November 1, 2016. This extra 4 months is needed for the accreditation organizations (AO) to modify their standards to address the new 2012 LSC requirements, submit them to CMS for review and approval, and then train their surveyors and clients. So, a November 1, 2016 enforcement date seems appropriate. This additional 4 months also allows you the opportunity to become fully compliant with the new requirements of the 2012 LSC, so that is a break as well.

While the new 2012 LSC is effective July 5, you will not see the AOs or CMS enforcing any of the new requirements, such as quarterly fire hose valve inspections, annual fire doors inspections, and 5-year internal inspections of the sprinkler pipe until November 1. But during this 4 month period of leniency, healthcare organizations may take advantage of the breaks the new 2012 LSC offers, such as monthly fire pump testing rather than weekly, and semi-annual water-flow switch testing rather than quarterly.

Section 19.2.3.4 (4) of the 2012 LSC does allow certain wheeled equipment to be left unattended in the corridor, provided it meets the following criteria:

  • The wheeled equipment does not reduce the clear width of the corridor to less than 5 feet
  • There must be a fire safety plan and training program to relocate the wheeled equipment during a fire or similar emergency
  • The wheeled equipment is limited to equipment in use; carts in use; medical emergency equipment not in use; patient lift equipment; and patient transport equipment.

In case you’re wondering, computers on wheels are not considered to be medical emergency equipment, so they do not qualify to be left unattended in the corridors for more than 30 minutes.


Jul 23 2016

Say Goodbye to Joint Commission’s PFI List

Category: Joint Commission,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: Hello Brad, I hear the SOC as of 8/4/2016 will no longer be used. If time is needed to do a repair for a life safety item we need to apply for a waiver from CMS and if granted, will be for 60 days. how true is this rumor? Please say it ain’t so!

A: Well… it ain’t so as you describe it, but here is the truth:

CMS has told Joint Commission that they can no longer allow hospitals more than 60 days from the end of the survey to resolve a LSC deficiency, unless the hospital has applied for a time-limited waiver, which acts as an extension. This effectively eliminates any positive action the Plan For Improvement (PFI) section of the Statement of Conditions. However, contrary to what you’ve heard, the SOC remains in the format of the Basic Building Information (BBI) section. Joint Commission has said their surveyors will no longer look at the PFI section, and Joint Commission will eliminate the special section at the end of the survey deficiency report that contained the PFIs. Now, all LSC deficiencies will cited in the main portion of the survey deficiency report and will not receive any special dispensation, such as the PFIs used to.

Back in 2014, CMS told Joint Commission that they can no longer not cite a LSC deficiency even if it was listed in the PFI section. So, since July 2014 all LSC deficiencies listed in the hospital’s PFI section were cited in the end of the survey deficiency report and did not require a Plan of Correction (PoC) since it already had one in the PFI list. Fast forward two years, and CMS told Joint Commission again that they did not like the fact there was no PoC for the LSC deficiencies listed in the PFI section, and they did not like the hospital taking more than 60 days to resolve the LSC deficiency without CMS permission.

So… beginning August 1, 2016, the PFI list is effectively defunct, and all LSC deficiencies cited during a survey will need to be resolved within 60 days of the end of the survey. If it cannot be resolved within 60 days of the end of the survey then the hospital must submit a time-limited waiver request to Joint Commission who will then forward it to the proper CMS regional office for their review and approval. Once approved, the time-limited waiver request is good until the next survey cycle where it will become invalid and if the deficiency remains it will be cited again.

Hospitals may still submit regular waiver and FSES equivalencies for LSC deficiencies that are an unreasonable hardship to resolve. That is an entirely different process and they are submitted to the accreditation organization and then it is forwarded to CMS regional office for review and approval.

Joint Commission says the PFI list will still be part of the SOC and hospitals may use it as a tool to manage their LSC deficiencies. But I advise my clients to no longer write PFIs in the SOC and manage their LSC deficiencies with the Computerized Maintenance Management System (work order system). That way, there is no chance of a unscrupulous surveyor looking at the PFI list and then writing those deficiencies into the survey deficiency report.

It’s a whole new world out there and CMS is bound and determined to have everything their way.

Brad Keyes, CHSP


Oct 23 2015

Quarterly Testing and Inspection Challenges

Category: Joint Commission,Questions and Answers,TestingBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: What strategies are other hospitals using in scheduling their quarterly fire systems inspections heading into 2014? We are a 3 million sq. ft. campus and our vendor is not always able to schedule us within the tight 20-day window each quarter that Joint Commission will now require. So by definition our schedule will now be in flux, depending on the completion date of the last inspection, rather than set on the same month each quarter. I realize they do not want people to schedule inspections in back to back months, which we do not do, but this seems like it will cause more instability than anything. 

A: I see your dilemma and understand the difficulty in the logistics of your situation. Scheduling a contractor to be onsite within the new 20-day window each quarter will be a challenge to large organizations like yours.

For the record, the Engineering department at the Joint Commission was not in favor of the requirement that quarterly testing and inspections to be performed 3 months from the previous test/inspection, plus or minus 10 days. But the power-that-be above them made that decision.

To answer your question: I do not know what other organizations are doing in regard to challenges with the new quarterly testing requirements. However, I think there is a way you can deal with this issue.

I suggest you contact the Standards Interpretation Group at the Joint Commission and discuss your options concerning the challenges in meeting the quarterly test/inspection window. Ask them if you can have some leeway that would allow you a wider window each quarter for the testing/inspection frequency other than the plus or minus 10 day window. My guess is they will allow it as long as you can demonstrate the hardship in meeting this requirement.


Sep 04 2015

Joint Commission Clarification of Findings

Category: Clarification,Joint Commission,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: We recently had a survey which resulted in multiple Life Safety findings. We want to clarify away some of these findings, and were told we can only clarify the ‘C’ category findings. Is this true?

A: No, I would not say that statement is true. Any finding may be clarified after the survey as long as the organization provides sufficient evidence that they were in compliance with the standard at the time of the survey. All ‘A’ and ‘C’ listed elements of performance that received a finding from the surveyor may be appealed to the accreditor with an explanation as to why the hospital believes they were compliant. This is called the clarification process, and organizations have ten (10) days to submit their clarifications once the survey report has been posted.

However, standards with ‘C’ elements of performance do have the additional advantage of clarification if the organization can prove they were compliant with at least 90% of the items covered under the standard prior to the survey. Take the example that corridor doors are required to latch (LS.02.01.30, EP 11); If the hospital regularly examines their corridor doors and has documentation that demonstrates at least 90% of the corridor doors did latch, then that information may be used in a written clarification and any finding of a corridor door not latching would eventually be vacated if the accreditor accepts the clarification.

In order to take advantage of this additional ‘C’ EP clarification process, the documented evidence of compliance must be gathered prior to the survey. This would require the organization to have a monitoring program in place that evaluates various features of life safety on a routine basis. That is why the old Building Maintenance Program (BMP), which is optional, is so important as it provides a documented history of compliance at any given time.  Many hospitals choose not to implement a BMP because it no longer provides any direct relief of a finding during the survey, but the program still provides the historical evidence needed for a clarification. And, it is a very good self-assessment program of your features of life safety.

The clarification process seems to be hit and miss, at times. It is dependent on a well-crafted written response with the evidence needed to vacate the finding. The staff in the Standards Interpretation Group at the accreditation organization does not always approve the clarifications the same way. It may depend on who is actually reviewing the clarification.