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Officials concerned by hospital rating

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Nash County board Vice Chairman Wayne Outlaw and Chairman Robbie Davis discuss matters after a Monday meeting in which Outlaw said he wished Davis had discussed a low-scoring Nash UNC Health Care report behind closed doors. Davis told commissioners it was time for them to work to see changes at the hospital.

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By LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

After Nash UNC Health Care received a scathing safety score last week, the Nash County Board of Commissioners expressed serious interest Monday in seeing changes at the hospital, engaging the N.C. General Assembly if needed.

“We need to get involved in it and stay involved in it,” county board Chairman Robbie Davis said. “We need to start turning it around. It can’t continue to be broken.”

Nash UNC received a D in a biannual report issued last week by the Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit public interest health organization. The News & Observer reported the score along with other North Carolina hospitals Friday, and the calls began to roll in, Davis said.

Leapfrog graded 2,639 hospitals nationwide, of which the most common grade was a C.

Nash was among the three worst-scoring hospitals. The other two were Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie and Davis Regional Medical Center in Statesville.

This was the first D for Nash, which had A grades for the last several years until receiving a C last fall.

Such problems could include infections after surgery, needle sticks, staff not washing hands, patient reactions to medicine and much more, Nash County Health Director Bill Hill said.

Davis said something had to be done.

“We can’t wait for someone else to do it,” Davis said. “We may need to go to the General Assembly and change the law.”

As is, commissioners approve hospital board members, but have no direct control over the hospital.

“The public doesn’t know how tied our hands are when it comes to the hospital,” Davis said.

Davis ticked off the type of anecdotal complaints he receives: long wait times; the county’s spent too much money on the hospital; facilities are underutilized; hospital is understaffed; problems between the hospital and outside healthcare providers; and moral has deteriorated.

“I haven’t been extremely happy with the hospital in a long while,” Davis said.

Commissioner Lisa Barnes, who serves on the hospital advisory board, said hospital staff were concerned about the report’s outcome.

Hill said the report would not affect the hospital’s accreditation and Barnes said the hospital has scored higher on other similar surveys. Barnes said previous Leapfrog surveys in which the hospital did much better contained only publicly released information. For the most recent survey, hospital staff participated in self-reporting and also did not answer all the categories.

Hospital spokesman Jeff Hedgepeth, director of marketing and public relations, didn’t immediately return messages left at his office.

Commissioner Fred Belfield said a lot of rumors seem to swirl around the hospital, and that he’s never had a problem.

Commissioner Mary Wells gave a mixed review, saying she received excellent service during a surgical procedure, but her husband recently had to wait hours to be seen in the emergency room.

Davis said the hospital used to turn over millions of dollars to the county, but the money stream has petered out in recent years.

“In 2014-15: $0; in 15-16: $0; in 16-17: $0; and we’ve penciled in $100,000 for 17-18, we’ll see how that goes,” Davis said.

Barnes said the score was a bad reflection on the county.

“It’s a county-owned hospital, but we don’t have a lot to do with it,” Barnes said. “They have management issues.”

Vice Chairman Wayne Outlaw said the discussion should have occurred behind closed doors.

Davis said he has done that before to no apparent avail.

“I don’t think we’ve done much today to improve rapport with the hospital,” Outlaw said. “This lays a foundation for a very bad meeting May 15.”

The board is set to receive a presentation from hospital representatives at its regularly scheduled May 15 workshop meeting.

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