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Improvements give Alpena hospital another A safety grade

Courtesy Photo Chad Kaiser, a registered nurse at MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena, washes his hands before entering a patient’s room at the hospital. All hospital staff follow hand hygiene practices prior to entering and after exiting a patient room.

ALPENA — MidMichigan Medical Center-Alpena officials are excited the hospital has earned an A in a national safety ranking for the second time in a row.

It’s the highest score a hospital can receive on the semi-annual report from Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit hospital watchdog organization based in Washington.

Hospital President Chuck Sherwin said he is “pleased” and “proud” of the score.

“We’ve worked hard — the staff and the providers — to work on some of the things we weren’t doing so well and have made a big difference and some really good improvements,” he said “This grade kind of validates the work that we’ve done here at the hospital.

The hospital made gains in patient satisfaction, reducing surgical site infections, and general safety practices such as handwashing, Sherwin said.

Sherwin said the hospital continues to implement its COVID-19 cleaning practices and focuses on hand hygiene for all employees.

“Many times we focus just on nurses, but in our organization, we’re trying to focus on all the people who interact with the patient,” he said. “So the environmental service person that goes into the room to help clean the room or our food nutrition people that go in and serve the food that all the people (eat).”

Additionally, Sherwin said changes were made to the way medications are distributed at the hospital. He said staff use a barcoding system and focus on elements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Antibiotic Stewardship program to make sure the right medications are given to the right patients at the right time for the right reasons.

The Antibiotic Stewardship program helps hospitals improve antibiotic use and help fight antibiotic resistance, according to the CDC.

Hospital employees are also focusing on their process for sterilizing equipment, Sherwin said. State of the art sterilization equipment will be installed when the hospital’s patient tower opens next spring.

“Not that our cleaning equipment today is bad, it’s just there are better ways to do it that are more efficient and just work better so staff don’t have to manually do as much stuff. Some of it is more automated,” he said.

The hospital also scored above average in preventing most common infections, most common surgical mishaps and most categories in staff management.

The hospital has improved on, but continues to score below average, on patient falls.

“Patient falls with injury is something that we are trying to get better at,” Sherwin said. “We’ve put into place a lot of efforts to reduce that. Sick people fall way more often than healthy people, and sick people are in hospitals.”

Sherwin said they know most falls occur when a patient gets up to use the bathroom or occurs in the bathroom. He said sometimes they trip over a cord or fall because it was dark and they didn’t see something. He said lighting is being installed and staff is trying to make sure the cords don’t cross the floor.

The hospital also scored below-average in preventing serious breathing problems and dangerous blood clots after surgery and putting specially trained doctors in care of intensive care unit patients.

Sherwin said having specially trained doctors in the intensive care unit is a category that has a higher percentage of impact in Leapfrog’s scoring. He said what Leapfrog really looks for is doctors who only work in the intensive care unit, but the Alpena hospital is not a large hospital, and that can be difficult to achieve.

He said the hospital’s hospitalists work in both the medical-surgical area and the intensive care unit and have the training to do that. He said not having doctors solely dedicated to the intensive care unit is something almost all rural hospitals struggle with, not just Alpena.

“For us to get an A, without that, is a tremendous testament to our staff and our providers and the great work that they’re doing,” he said.

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