ASHE warns members of 3G phaseout

The American Society for Health Care Engineering has warned its members that, effective on Feb. 22, AT&T shut down its 3G services. Additionally, T-Mobile (Sprint 3G backbone) will be deactivated on June 20, and T-Mobile (remaining 3G backbone) will be deactivated by July 1. Verizon began the retirement of its 3G network late last year and plans to completely retire the system by the end of 2022. For facilities that use these service provider cellular communicators, it is important to verify whether various systems, such as fire alarms, will be impacted by the deactivation of 3G services and to plan accordingly. 

Joint Commission updates take effect July 1

The Joint Commission has announced changes to its Environment of Care and Emergency Management chapters that will take effect July 1. These changes affect organizations under the Hospital and Critical Access Hospital accreditation programs. The Environment of Care changes also affect organizations surveyed under Ambulatory Health Care, Nursing Care Centers and other accreditation manuals. The changes in the Environment of Care chapter clarify fire drill requirements, maintenance of fire safety equipment requirements, reporting requirements for medical equipment failures and requirements for engineered smoke control systems. The Emergency Management Chapter for Hospitals and Critical Access Hospitals has undergone a significant rewrite, in which existing requirements have been revised, consolidated and added to.

OSHA creates targeted plan for COVID-19 readiness

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced an enforcement memorandum for a short-term increase in highly focused inspections directed at hospitals and skilled nursing care facilities that treat or handle COVID-19 patients. OSHA’s goal is to expand its presence to ensure continued mitigation to control the spread of COVID-19 and future variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and protect the health and safety of health care workers at heightened risk for contracting the virus. The agency will be initiating focused inspections to emphasize monitoring for current and future readiness to protect workers from COVID-19. Follow-up inspections will be conducted at sites that were previously issued citations, as well as where complaints were received but the agency did not conduct in-person inspections. 

Warning update on health care-targeted ransomware

The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Secret Service issued an updated advisory on the Russian-speaking Conti ransomware gang to include a list of over 100 domain names and naming characteristics used to distribute the ransomware and conduct attacks. John Riggi, the American Hospital Association’s national adviser for cybersecurity and risk, stated, “The Conti gang is of particular danger to U.S. health care as multiple attacks against U.S. hospitals and health systems and an attack against the entire Irish National Health System have been attributed to them. Some of these attacks resulted in significant regional disruption of health care delivery.” On Feb. 25, the gang announced their support for Russia.