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Surprise inspection finds Stroger Hospital lacking

Friday, May 25, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Mickey Ciokajlo

Cook County's top public hospital could have its accreditation status downgraded for the first time in more than 15 years. But the county's top health official predicted the change wouldn't last long, saying most of the violations cited were minor and readily fixable.

The agency that inspects most of the nation's hospitals cited Stroger Hospital with 16 findings of non-compliance, said Dr. Robert Simon, the county's interim health chief. If the organization's board approves those citations next month, as Simon expects it will, the hospital would be granted "conditional accreditation" and be given time to fix the problems.
The old Cook County Hospital, which Stroger Hospital replaced in 2002, lost its accreditation in 1991 for 13 months over fire-safety problems with two of its buildings.

The Oakbrook Terrace-based Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations doesn't make its findings public, but Simon said Thursday that he would release the findings after the agency's board votes.

In an interview, Simon listed what he considered to be the most serious of the issues cited and then said he's confident the hospital would return to full accreditation within a matter of months.

"The things are minor. They're so easy for us to fix," Simon said.

One of the most important findings, Simon said, was how the hospital laboratory reports its most serious results after patient tests. The lab is supposed to give the results directly to a doctor or a nurse, but the investigators found instances in which the information was relayed through clerical staff, Simon said.

In another finding, investigators observed staffers failing to ask patients their names to verify the identification with a wrist band or other documentation before taking a medical action such as drawing blood.

Another citation involved doctors failing to wash their hands between every encounter with a patient, even if they were wearing gloves and not dealing with infectious materials or wounds.

"We have those policies in place," Simon said.

The surprise visit in March was Stroger Hospital's first since the organization last year stopped announcing its inspections to hospitals in advance. Earlier this year, the Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts General Hospital was hit with a number of findings of problems after the accreditation agency's unannounced visit. The hospital retained full accreditation, however.

Stroger Hospital was initially hit with 22 citations of non-compliance, but the number was dropped to 16 after county officials made their case to the agency's staff, said Susanne Klein, director of quality assurance and regulatory affairs at Stroger Hospital.



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