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Patient gripes at Stroger are many

Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Chi-Town Daily News
by Alex Parker

Stroger Hospital falls below the national average in patient satisfaction, its chief medical officer told Cook County Health and Hospital System board members today.

Dr. Maurice Lemon said Stroger performed poorly on patient satisfaction surveys, though only 16 percent of patients issued the survey responded.

Chief among patients’ concerns were long wait times, bad attitudes among the staff and poor explanations of treatments.

“Patient satisfaction needs to be a higher priority for this staff,” Lemon said. It should be “a credo that drives the quality and care we deliver.”

Lemon listed a number of patient gripes, including that staff members were not receptive to patients' emotional needs, a lenghty discharge process and a lack of information from doctors and nurses.

The quarterly review of Stroger Hospital today also showed the hospital falls short of the national average in number of treatment areas.

Lemon told the Quality and Patient Safety Committee the hospital has fallen behind expectations in encouraging smoking cessation for patients suffering heart attacks, according to federal data. In addition, Lemon said Stroger ranks last out of 56 area hospitals in responding to heart attacks.

It also is far below standards in giving heart attack patients so-called “door-to-balloon” treatment, in which a tiny balloon is inserted into a patient’s heart to relieve symptoms.

“It’s not an easy thing, these time-limited issues,” Lemon said, because heart attack patients don’t “broadcast” the severity of their cases in the waiting room. Another complication, he said, was a lack of cardiology teams on-site at all times. Unlike Loyola University Medical Center, teams are on-call, and must be paged at night or on the weekend.

Lemon cited deficiencies in the hospital’s treatment of pneumonia patients. It falls far below the national average in giving antibiotics within six hours of admission, and below the average in offering a flu vaccine, as well.

But Lemon set a number of goals to improve performance, and said the hospital’s statistics are more updated than those processed by the federal government, which span six quarters in 2007 and 2008. The more recent numbers, Lemon said, allow the hospital to take immediate steps, which may not show up in federal surveys.

After Lemon’s presentation, committee chairman Luis Munoz seemed perplexed.

“You have a lot of issues there, and I don’t know where to start,” Munoz said.

In other business, committee members are pleased with the implementation of a new electronic records program, which they say allows better access to records, better coordination between departments and improved analysis of hospital capabilities.

The health system hopes to unveil and new and improved Web site by Oct. 1.

In addition, health system COO David Small said a sub-committee is moving forward to draft a plan that would eliminate smoking from health system campuses, including its three hospitals and satellite facilities.

Finally, hospital officials are still waiting from an official report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, resulting from several infractions at the Stroger laboratories. If a plan for improvement submitted by the hospital is deemed inadequate, the hospital could lose federal funding for its labs.

Daily News Staff Writer Alex Parker covers public health. He can be reached at 773.362.5002, ext. 17, or alex [at] chitowndailynews [dot] org.

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