S&C 17-30 Medicare & Medicaid Legionella Memo Confirms Certified Health Facilities Must Have Policies to Prevent the Bacteria

S&C 17-30 Medicare / Medicaid legionella memoThe US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently issued an S&C 17-30 Medicare/Medicaid Legionella Requirement memo regarding the control and prevention of Legionnaires’ disease in certified health facilities. The announcement earlier this year confirmed that all healthcare facilities certified for Medicare must now have appropriate water management policies in place. These policies should be designed to reduce the risk of legionella bacteria growing and spreading within the facility.

S&C 17-30 Medicare/Medicaid legionella memo

The S&C 17-30 memorandum was issued on 2nd June 2017, and subsequently revised on 9th June. The revision provided further clarification on the nature of the provider types affected by the new legionella requirements. All hospitals, long-term care facilities, and critical access hospitals are covered by the new rules. They must all now have a water management policy in place that inhibits the chance of all bacteria, including legionella, growing within the water systems used in the buildings. The Medicare/Medicaid memorandum was issued with immediate effect, meaning all affected facilities needed to implement appropriate policies from that day forward.

Why were the new measures brought in?

Some background on legionella and Legionnaires’ disease was included in the memorandum. This indicated that legionellosis, which includes Legionnaires’ disease and the lesser-known Pontiac fever, had increased by 286% over a 15-year period in America. The request for policies to be brought in will hopefully reduce this number.

It was also stated that 19% of outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease that had occurred during that period were associated with long-term care facilities, such as those covered by the new requirements. Similarly, a further 15% of cases were associated with hospital facilities.

Which water systems can pose a health hazard?

The memorandum also revealed some of the water systems and facilities that can pose a health hazard where legionella bacteria are concerned. These include water heaters, ice machines, cooling towers, and certain medical devices. It also pointed out the increased risk associated with elderly and immune-compromised patients – both of whom are more likely to be present in the health facilities covered by the new ruling.

What about ASHRAE 188 and the control of legionella?

ASHRAE 188 is a US water management standard that is recommended to be implemented in buildings where the risk of legionella bacteria is clear. A spokesman for the ASHRAE Committee said those on the committee were ‘pleased’ the CMS had put these new rules into place. The toolkit available from the CDC is based on the ASHRAE 188 standard, and it may prove beneficial for those who are developing their own measures to prevent and restrict the spread of legionella in a healthcare setting. This applies in other countries, not just to those US healthcare centres affected by this ruling.

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