Mar 31, 2020 - Health

CMS gives hospitals new flexibilities to fight coronavirus

An elderly patient wearing a mask is seen being wheeled out of an ambulance

Photo: John Nacion/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services yesterday issued new temporary rules that will allow hospitals to expand their capacity during the coronavirus epidemic.

Between the lines: These new flexibilities are designed to allow health care workers to treat more patients than the system is built for, and to help separate patients with the coronavirus from those without it.

Details: The rules allow facilities ranging from ambulatory surgical centers to convention centers to be repurposed to respond to the pandemic.

  • Ambulatory centers can, for example, be used to provide cancer or trauma care that would normally be performed in hospitals, thus protecting these patients from coronavirus exposure.
  • Non-hospital sites can be used to treat or quarantine patients, allowing hospitals to convert buildings like hotels or gymnasiums into care sites.
  • Hospitals and labs can test for the coronavirus in patients' homes or in community-based settings outside of hospitals, and hospital emergency departments can test and screen patients for COVID-19 at drive-through or off-campus sites.
  • Hospitals are also given new flexibilities that will allow them to rapidly expand their workforce.

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