§ 17.74 - Standards applicable to medical foster homes.
(a) General. A medical foster home must:
(1) Meet all applicable state and local regulations, including construction, maintenance, and sanitation regulations.
(2) Have safe and functioning systems for heating, hot and cold water, electricity, plumbing, sewage, cooking, laundry, artificial and natural light, and ventilation. Ventilation for cook stoves is not required.
(3) Except as otherwise provided in this section, meet the applicable provisions of chapters 1 through 11 and 24, and section 33.7 of NFPA 101 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1), and the other codes and chapters identified in this section, as applicable. Existing buildings or installations that do not comply with the installation provisions of the codes or standards referenced in paragraph (b)(1) through (5), (b)(8), and (b)(10) of § 17.1 shall be permitted to be continued in service, provided that the lack of conformity with these codes and standards does not present a serious hazard to the occupants.
(b) Community residential care facility standards applicable to medical foster homes. Medical foster homes must comply with § 17.63(c), (d), (f), (h), (j) and (k).
(c) Activities. The facility must plan and facilitate appropriate recreational and leisure activities.
(d) Residents' bedrooms. Each veteran resident must have a bedroom:
(1) With a door that closes and latches;
(2) That contains a suitable bed and appropriate furniture; and
(3) That is single occupancy, unless the veteran agrees to a multi-occupant bedroom.
(e) Windows. VA may grant provisional approval for windows used as a secondary means of escape that do not meet the minimum size and dimensions required by chapter 24 of NFPA 101 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1) if the windows are a minimum of 5.0 square feet (and at least 20 inches wide and at least 22 inches high). The secondary means of escape must be brought into compliance with chapter 24 no later than 60 days after a veteran resident is placed in the home.
(f) Special locking devices. Special locking devices that do not comply with section 22.214.171.124 of NFPA 101 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1) are permitted where the clinical needs of the veteran resident require specialized security measures and with the written approval of:
(1) The responsible VA clinician; and
(2) The VA fire/safety specialist or the Director of the VA Medical Center of jurisdiction.
(g) Smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors and smoke and CO alarms. Medical foster homes must comply with this paragraph (g) no later than 60 days after the first veteran is placed in the home. Prior to compliance, VA inspectors will provisionally approve a medical foster home for the duration of this 60-day period if the medical foster home mitigates risk through the use of battery-operated single station alarms, provided that the alarms are installed before any veteran is placed in the home.
(1) Smoke detectors or smoke alarms must be provided in accordance with sections 126.96.36.199.1 or 188.8.131.52.2 of NFPA 101 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1); section 184.108.40.206.3 of NFPA 101 will not be used. In addition, smoke alarms must be interconnected so that the operation of any smoke alarm causes an alarm in all smoke alarms within the medical foster home. Smoke detectors or smoke alarms must not be installed in the kitchen or any other location subject to causing false alarms.
(2) CO detectors or CO alarms must be installed in any medical foster home with a fuel-burning appliance, fireplace, or an attached garage, in accordance with NFPA 720 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1).
(3) Combination CO/smoke detectors and combination CO/smoke alarms are permitted.
(4) Smoke detectors and smoke alarms must initiate a signal to a remote supervising station to notify emergency forces in the event of an alarm.
(5) Smoke and/or CO alarms and smoke and/or CO detectors, and all other elements of a fire alarm system, must be inspected, tested, and maintained in accordance with NFPA 72 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1) and NFPA 720 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1).
(h) Sprinkler systems. (1) If a sprinkler system is installed, it must be inspected, tested, and maintained in accordance with NFPA 25 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1), unless the sprinkler system is installed in accordance with NFPA 13D (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1). If a sprinkler system is installed in accordance with NFPA 13D, it must be inspected annually by a competent person.
(2) If sprinkler flow or pressure switches are installed, they must activate notification appliances in the medical foster home, and must initiate a signal to the remote supervising station.
(i) Fire extinguishers. At least one 2-A:10-B:C rated fire extinguisher must be visible and readily accessible on each floor, including basements, and must be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. Portable fire extinguishers must be inspected, tested, and maintained in accordance with NFPA 10 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1).
(j) Emergency lighting. Each occupied floor must have at least one plug-in rechargeable flashlight, operable and readily accessible, or other approved emergency lighting. Such emergency lighting must be tested monthly and replaced if not functioning.
(k) Fireplaces. A non-combustible hearth, in addition to protective glass doors or metal mesh screens, is required for fireplaces. Hearths and protective devices must meet all applicable state and local fire codes.
(l) Portable heaters. Portable heaters may be used if they are maintained in good working condition and:
(1) The heating elements of such heaters do not exceed 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius);
(2) The heaters are labeled; and
(3) The heaters have tip-over protection.
(m) Oxygen safety. Any area where oxygen is used or stored must not be near an open flame and must have a posted “No Smoking” sign. Oxygen cylinders must be adequately secured or protected to prevent damage to cylinders. Whenever possible, transfilling of liquid oxygen must take place outside of the living areas of the home.
(n) Smoking. Smoking must be prohibited in all sleeping rooms, including sleeping rooms of non-veteran residents. Ashtrays must be made of noncombustible materials.
(o) Special/other hazards. (1) Extension cords must be three-pronged, grounded, sized properly, and not present a hazard due to inappropriate routing, pinching, damage to the cord, or risk of overloading an electrical panel circuit.
(2) Flammable or combustible liquids and other hazardous material must be safely and properly stored in either the original, labeled container or a safety can as defined by NFPA 30 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1).
(p) Emergency egress and relocation drills. Operating features of the medical foster home must comply with section 33.7 of NFPA 101 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1), except that section 220.127.116.11 of NFPA 101 does not apply. Instead, VA will enforce the following requirements:
(1) Before placement in a medical foster home, the veteran will be clinically evaluated by VA to determine whether the veteran is able to participate in emergency egress and relocation drills. Within 24 hours after arrival, each veteran resident must be shown how to respond to a fire alarm and evacuate the medical foster home, unless the veteran resident is unable to participate.
(2) The medical foster home caregiver must demonstrate the ability to evacuate all occupants within three minutes to a point of safety outside of the medical foster home that has access to a public way, as defined in NFPA 101 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1).
(3) If all occupants are not evacuated within three minutes or if a veteran resident is either permanently or temporarily unable to participate in drills, then the medical foster home will be given a 60-day provisional approval, after which time the home must have established one of the following remedial options or VA will terminate the approval in accordance with § 17.65.
(i) The home is protected throughout with an automatic sprinkler system in accordance with section 9.7 of NFPA 101 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1) and whichever of the following apply: NFPA 13 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1); NFPA 13R (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1); or NFPA 13D (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1).
(ii) Each veteran resident who is permanently or temporarily unable to participate in a drill or who fails to evacuate within three minutes must have a bedroom located at the ground level with direct access to the exterior of the home that does not require travel through any other portion of the residence, and access to the ground level must meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The medical foster home caregiver's bedroom must also be on ground level.
(4) The 60-day provisional approval under paragraph (p)(3) of this section may be contingent upon increased fire prevention measures, including but not limited to prohibiting smoking or use of a fireplace. However, each veteran resident who is temporarily unable to participate in a drill will be permitted to be excused from up to two drills within one 12-month period, provided that the two excused drills are not consecutive, and this will not be a cause for VA to not approve the home.
(5) For purposes of paragraph (p), the term all occupants means every person in the home at the time of the emergency egress and relocation drill, including non-residents.
(q) Records of compliance with this section. The medical foster home must comply with § 17.63(i) regarding facility records, and must document all inspection, testing, drills and maintenance activities required by this section. Such documentation must be maintained for 3 years or for the period specified by the applicable NFPA standard, whichever is longer. Documentation of emergency egress and relocation drills must include the date, time of day, length of time to evacuate the home, the name of each medical foster home caregiver who participated, the name of each resident, whether the resident participated, and whether the resident required assistance.
(r) Local permits and emergency response. Where applicable, a permit or license must be obtained for occupancy or business by the medical foster home caregiver from the local building or business authority. When there is a home occupant who is incapable of self-preservation, the local fire department or response agency must be notified by the medical foster home within 7 days of the beginning of the occupant's residency.
(s) Equivalencies. Any equivalencies to VA requirements must be in accordance with section 1.4.3 of NFPA 101 (incorporated by reference, see § 17.1), and must be approved in writing by the appropriate Veterans Health Administration, Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) Director. A veteran living in a medical foster home when the equivalency is granted or who is placed there after it is granted must be notified in writing of the equivalencies and that he or she must be willing to accept such equivalencies. The notice must describe the exact nature of the equivalency, the requirements of this section with which the medical foster home is unable to comply, and explain why the VISN Director deemed the equivalency necessary. Only equivalencies that the VISN Director determines do not pose a risk to the health or safety of the veteran may be granted. Also, equivalencies may only be granted when technical requirements of this section cannot be complied with absent undue expense, there is no other nearby home which can serve as an adequate alternative, and the equivalency is in the best interest of the veteran.
(t) Cost of medical foster homes. (1) Payment for the charges to veterans for the cost of medical foster home care is not the responsibility of the United States Government.
(2) The resident or an authorized personal representative and a representative of the medical foster home facility must agree upon the charge and payment procedures for medical foster home care.
(3) The charges for medical foster home care must be comparable to prices charged by other assisted living and nursing home facilities in the area based on the veteran's changing care needs and local availability of medical foster homes. (The Office of Management and Budget has approved the information collection requirements in this section under control number 2900-0777.)