Thursday, September 20, 2012

Our Opinion: Public will measure work to fix hospital ER

New Era Staff Editorial
Jennie Stuart Medical Center CEO Eric Lee said in a meeting with our editorial board earlier this summer that the hospital’s emergency department had to improve to meet patient expectations. Addressing complaints from patients who went to the emergency room was a priority when he became the hospital’s top executive in January 2011, Lee said.
Anyone who has lived in Hopkinsville at least a few years has probably heard a story or two about someone who went to the ER and didn’t get the level of care they needed. Often, people describe leaving the ER in Hopkinsville and driving to Clarksville or Nashville for treatment.

First, let’s acknowledge there’s a natural disconnect between two groups in any ER, and even in the best of circumstances, they probably have different definitions of “emergency.” The patients are sick or injured — and often frightened. On the other side, doctors and nurses are dealing with many patients at once, and they have a different perspective. Still, Jennie Stuart’s ER has been a sore spot with many people for a long time, and that doesn’t reflect well on one of the community’s most valuable resources.
In March, the hospital’s administration hired a new medical group to staff the ER with physicians and nurse-practitioners, and it appears Jennie Stuart is on the right track to finally meet patient expectations by reducing wait times and providing better medical care. The hospital reports a significant decrease in the number of complaints from patients. Also, fewer people are leaving the ER before they get treated, the hospital reports.
Jennie Stuart’s ER sees 100 to 130 patients a day, so it’s a huge job overhauling a system that was failing. We commend the hospital for tackling the problem. Having six ER physicians who moved into the community to live and work full-time in Hopkinsville could be a key to sustaining the change.
Jennie Stuart should not be surprised if members of the community are slow to trust the improvements. But if the changes are real and if Jennie Stuart can maintain good service and quality care in the ER, the public will help spread the word. That’s an unscientific measure, but it would signal a change in the way the community views the hospital.

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