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Working to support critical care professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic

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The Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) is working to support critical care professionals on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inadequate ICU workforce and equipment could put patients and clinicians at unnecessary risk. SCCM’s efforts to support clinicians during this pandemic reach far beyond education and research and include specific actions to drive advocacy.

SCCM Impacts CMS Rule Changes on Critical Care
Earlier this year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) proposed changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2022. SCCM, along with other specialty medical societies, responded to CMS’s proposal, especially concerning rule changes surrounding critical care. CMS has now released the final Medicare Physicians Fee Schedule for 2022. The rules establish payment, coverage, and compliance policy for physicians and other Medicare Part B providers starting January 1, 2022. “The new rules provide guidance and clarity for critical care groups billing for advanced practice practitioners and physicians. They also recognize the time and effort of critical care providers,” said David Carpenter, PA-C FCCM, who helped craft the letter SCCM sent to CMS. (November 10, 2021)

SCCM supports measures that decrease the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the risk of severe forms of the disease that may lead to critical illness. Also, SCCM opposes the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 prevention and treatment. The SCCM Standards of Professional Conduct apply to all SCCM members and obligate them to serve patients, families, and the public, both ethically and honestly to achieve the best possible health outcomes. Official Statement of SCCM: COVID-19 Misinformation (September 24, 2021)

Immunization rates among children and adults have fallen during the pandemic, threatening heard immunity. The Society has signed on to a letter urging Congress to introduce the Community Immunity During COVID-19 Act, which will provide funding to state and local public health departments to promote recommended vaccinations during the COVID-19 public health emergency. (December 12, 2020) 

Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act
SCCM supports the Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act, which aims to temporarily address the shortage of physicians and nurses in the United States. The act would allow the “recapture” of up to 40,000 unused immigrant visas and make them available to 25,000 nurses and 15,000 physicians who are currently unable to finalize their green card applications due to backlogs.

Mental Health Resources for Frontline Healthcare Workers
SCCM has supported a letter to U.S. Congress leadership advocating for providing mental health resources to frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic and beyond. 

Personal Protective Equipment

Ventilator Supplies
SCCM has worked with numerous organizations to develop mechanical ventilation strategies to provide guidance for augmenting staff, ventilator supplies, and advice for clinicians considering placing multiple patients on a single ventilator. Lewis J. Kaplan, MD, FACS, FCCP, FCCM, served as a member of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)/FEMA COVID-19 Co-Ventilation Task Force to provide guidance for those who may be out of options and attempting such measures.

Clinician Financial Support
SCCM is joining the AMA in demanding financial support for healthcare clinicians through tax relief, student loan forgiveness, and other methods. After receiving reports that some members were facing pay reductions as cost-saving efforts by hospitals, SCCM insisted to HHS that employers maintain clinician salaries. Pay should be held to at least the same level as before the pandemic as a condition of receiving federal relief funds. SCCM continues to work with the U.S. Congress to ensure that the next relief package includes considerations for clinicians working on the front lines, including hazard pay, special death benefits, and other items (similar to what was provided to first responders after 9/11).