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Pardee amps up focus on patient satisfaction

Pardee Hospital officials say they've placed a high priority on improving patient satisfaction in the wake of surveys that show the hospital's ratings are low.

Former Pardee board member Linda Sokalski wrote to county commissioners last week pointing out the numbers and listing ways she thought Pardee needed to improve. The survey, in a report issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, showed Pardee's overall patient satisfaction rate, at 67 percent, in the bottom third of hospitals in Western North Carolina and 11 points behind Mission Hospitals in Asheville, at 78 percent. Park Ridge hospital scored 73 percent.
The report also ranked Pardee last or next to last among 18 hospitals in doctor communication, nurse communication and getting help quickly.

"Patient satisfaction is impacted by people, processes and facilities," Sokalski, who has a Ph.D., wrote to county commission chairman Tommy Thompson. "I've never doubted that Pardee's people want to do what's best for patients, and (CEO) Jay Kirby and his staff seem to be trying to make their processes more patient centered. The facilities issue is another matter altogether."

During a recent visit to Pardee for outpatient surgery, she said, "what impressed me least was how shabby things had become since I'd had a similar procedure" eight years ago.

Kirby, who came on board as CEO a year ago, said a strategic planning committee is looking at a master plan that would include a review of the facility. As for patient satisfaction numbers, Kirby emphatically took ownership and vowed a turnaround.

"The numbers speak for themselves, and Dr. Sokalski's analysis is correct," he said. "We're not where we should be and it will improve, period. A number of improvements are in place by Pat Ashe, our chief nurse, as far as patient satisfaction."

Among the changes are more required bedside visits to patients, a greater awareness among clinical staff of patient needs and visits by senior staff to the nursing floor, including visits by Kirby himself.

Each patient admitted to Pardee receives a card from the CEO. "I'm CEO of this hospital and we want to improve your experience," Kirby said, paraphrasing the card's message. "Anything that happens within your stay, I want you to call me, and here is my office number and here is my cell phone number."

"I've gotten five calls in four months," he said, with complaints covering "various issues, from food trays being cold, from not hearing from a physician, to not being able to be discharged on a timely basis."

Given the hundreds of admissions in that span, he said, the number of complaints was not high. "I go through and I spot check and ask patients have they received this card, and they'll say yes, it's sitting right here," he said.

The hospital has placed the highest priority on the issue, he said.

Nurses, supervisors, doctors and top administrators are focused on making sure patients' needs are met and making sure they're given the opportunity to ask questions and get answers, said Kirby and Pat Ashe, the vice president and chief nursing officer.

"Our nurses make rounds every hour and nursing assistants make rounds every odd hour, so we make sure somebody is in the room at a minimum of once every hour," she said. Hospital personnel call patients at home within 24 to 48 hours of their discharge, and a new program will make pharmacists available to meet with patients to answer questions about medication.

"It's really more about us making certain that our staff are paying attention to the fact that our patients are going to get a survey when they get home," she said. "Absolutely satisfying our patients is an important part of what we do but we also look at the quality of our care and we also have a higher focus on improving that. It's an extremely high priority for our entire organization right now and we will see some significant difference in 90 days. That's the commitment we have made to our entire organization and our board."

Sokalski, in her letter to the county commissioners, said the hospital "is becoming an aging architectural relic" in need of a major capital infusion. "I was amused to read the proposal by one of our Commissioners to allow the market to tell us what our asset is worth and fear we may not like the answer," she wrote.

She also noted that, "unlike many community hospitals," county-owned Pardee "does not receive funding from taxpayers but must rely on operating margins and donations to fund capital improvements."