Hospitals form safety coalition 

Jul 07

Hospitals in Lake and Porter counties have joined forces for better patient safety and services.

Community Healthcare System, The Methodist Hospitals, Porter Health and the Sisters of St. Francis Health Services Inc. have formed the Northwest Indiana Patient Safety Coalition.

The group is modeled after similar programs in Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and Michiana areas and has the support of the Indiana Hospital Association. These coalitions work to ensure patient safety by adopting standardized practices.

For example, the IHA asks all Indiana hospitals to use the same colors on safety wristbands to indicate patients' conditions and status.

"A purple wristband at one hospital may mean DNR (do not resuscitate) while in another hospital, the purple wristband could mean 'don't use this extremity'," said Ronda McKay, vice president for patient care and chief nursing officer with Community Healthcare System.

McKay participated in forming the Indianapolis safety coalition and is part of the team meeting to identify and prioritize standard practices.

With this effort, the hospitals "put aside our competitive juices in the name of quality patient care," said Tom Gryzbek, president of St. Margaret Mercy Hospitals in Hammond and Dyer and head of the IHA's Northwestern District.

"We intend to work together," Gryzbek said. "All the facilities' presidents have agreed to do their best for patients -- to find solutions."

Purdue University Calumet's nursing program is also part of the team.

Each participating hospital has been asked to designate a team of safety leaders to attend the monthly coalition meetings, including the chief nursing executive, chief medical officer and leaders of patient safety and quality committees.

At these meetings, the team will identify and prioritize safety practices to be used in all hospitals. Among the patient safety projects already identified are the following:

  • Standardizing surgical instruments and sponge-count policies
  • Precautions to guard against hospital-acquired infections
  • A patients education campaign focused on medication lists
  • Standardizing emergency codes
  • Setting guidelines for care while patients are in emergency rooms waiting for bed placement.

"Patient safety has to happen on the front lines of care," said Betsy Lee, director of the Indiana Patient Safety Center. This organization was formed in 2006 as a partnership between the IHA, the Indiana State Medical Association and other agencies. Lee is helping coordinate the Northwest Indiana safety effort.

"The idea is to create coalitions where those doing the jobs can have a dialog and improve the possibility of improving care in the communities," she said. "It's appealing to get involved in a community-wide initiative."

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