The Sun Is Doing Carroll County General Wrong

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

April 04, 1993

During the past several weeks, The Sun's Carroll County bureau has published several articles which call into question the quality of care provided at Carroll County General Hospital. The articles have contained several inaccuracies, needlessly alarming the community that CCGH serves.

The federal Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) relies on accreditation by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) to determine if hospitals are eligible to participate in the Medicare Program. Every year, HCFA randomly selects a few hospitals and conducts its own survey to determine the validity of this process.

In June 1992, the JCAHO surveyed CCGH. Two months later, HCFA asked the Office of Licensing and Certification Programs (OLCP) of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH) to go into the hospital and validate the [JCAHO] findings. The JCAHO found serious problems with record-keeping and documentation of quality assurance activities. OLCP, in its own independent investigation, found the same problems. The Sun has reported these problems in great (( detail.

However, The Sun failed to report that although the JCAHO gave the hospital "the lowest score for failing to keep patients records up to date" in June, the JCAHO, based on corrective action by the hospital, changed that score to the highest possible less than 3 months later. The Sun knew this but failed to report it. Instead, The Sun would have its readers believe that the problems that existed at the hospital last June exist now. The omission of this fact makes for good news copy, but is not a fair representation of the hospital's current status.

The Sun also failed to report that DHMH has been in close contact with the hospital to develop and monitor an appropriate plan of correction and to ensure that the hospital was, and is, providing quality care. The Sun reported that the department had accepted a plan of correction, but implied that no one had reviewed it. This was not true. The Sun also reported that DHMH had not yet conducted a follow-up progress survey. In fact, we told the reporter that because the JCAHO had conducted a survey in January which showed progress, we intended to do a survey later in the spring to determine a track record of continued progress and compliance.

We have repeatedly emphasized to The Sun that Carroll County General has been cooperating fully with the department throughout this entire process. The JCAHO and Maryland survey processes did exactly what they were supposed to do: identify potential problem areas. Carroll County General has made every effort to resolve those problems, which is exactly what they are supposed to do. . . . Nelson J. Sabatini

Annapolis

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

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On March 17, The Sun ran an article on a survey conducted by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) at Carroll County General Hospital. The survey was completed about a year ago, and the report issued in August 1992.

The important news for Carroll County residents then, and now, is that the hospital, which has been continuously accredited since it opened in 1961, again received a full three-year &r accreditation.

News articles about JCAHO survey reports are a new experience for both hospitals and the community they serve. Because of the complex nature of these reports, it is vital to put them in perspective when making this material public. Like nine out of 10 hospitals surveyed by the JCAHO, Carroll County General received recommendations with its accreditation. These recommendations are designed primarily as educational and internal performance improvement tools for hospitals, rather than report card to the community.

Most importantly, it should be noted that the JCAHO survey does not measure the quality of care. Rather, it focuses more on hospital processes and policies which require improvement. For example, the recommendations for Carroll County General relate documentation requirements. While important, these issues do not measure or reflect patient care quality. . . .

In summary, MHA is proud to work with Carroll County General and we are pleased to confirm that the hospital is working hard to continuously improve the quality of its services to the community. This is challenging work, and we hope the community will show its continued support and appreciation for these efforts.

Calvin M. Pierson

Lutherville

The writer is president of the Maryland Hospital Association.

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The last time staff writer Donna Boller wrote a sensationalized account of Carroll County General Hospital's record-keeping procedures, we reacted with restraint, noting your paper's general tendency to report fairly on health care issues. Therefore, we were extremely disappointed to find that her latest article completely misled the public regarding our JCAHO survey last summer.

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