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The administration and trustees at The Regional Medical Center are on target in going pro-active by addressing a recent report on hospital safety.

Questioning the legitimacy of a particular rating or ranking in the plethora of surveys that exist in the online universe is futile. When results circulate via social media, in particular, the findings will be taken as legitimate by many.

RMC President and CEO Charles Williams put it this way during a recent interview with The Times and Democrat: "I, along with our new leadership team, believe in full transparency. We will never shy away from submitting our data because our goal is to continually get better. We want all the feedback we can get and then some."

In the case of a safety survey by the Leapfrog Group, exposure went beyond social media. Newspapers such as The Times and Democrat and The State of Columbia have reported on the rankings.

For RMC, those rankings have raised concerns.

The Leapfrog Group gave RMC an F in its fall 2018 survey of hospital safety across nation. The bi-annual survey looks at infections, problems with surgery, practices to prevent errors and doctors, nurses and hospital staff.

RMC was the only hospital of the 46 surveyed in the state to receive an F. It was also just under 1 percent nationally, or one of 17 hospitals, to receive an F grade.

The survey comes from a reputable source.

The Leapfrog Group was created in 2000 by a group of businesses and other large health care purchasers who sought to reduce preventable medical mistakes. Its survey collects and reports hospital performance data with the aim of “empowering purchasers to find the highest-value care and giving consumers the lifesaving information they need to make informed decisions.” Leapfrog receives guidance from the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The most recent survey represents the first time RMC has received an F grade, with the hospital previously being graded with Cs and Ds. The hospital performed below average in 23 of 28 patient safety measures, above average in four safety measures and average in one safety measure.

Among deficient areas, RMC received failing grades in preventing infections, preventing surgical wounds from reopening, death from serious and treatable complications, breathing problems, blood clots and accidental cuts and tears.

The hospital was below average in safe medication administration, handwashing, communication about medicines and discharges, and staff working together to prevent errors. RMC received the worst possible score a hospital can receive on preventing bed sores.

During the interview with The T&D and again at a public forum held to address the survey, Williams made key points about changes taking place at RMC since most of the survey information was collected from 2015-17. He said more changes and improvements are forthcoming.

"Action plans already underway include annual safety surveys reviewed by the RMC board of trustees; annual reviews of never events (such as wrong-site surgery); a new patient safety committee; quarterly staffing plans for nursing; quarterly hand hygiene improvement (HHI) plans; medication reconciliation audits; leadership evaluations that include performance measures with respect to fostering a culture of safety and mitigating risks for patients," Williams said.

"Just to be clear, we are focused on our long-term goal of achieving an A rating over time and if there were a grade higher than A, our leadership team and staff would be focused on that,” he said.

As much as a good leader must publicly address issues that affect trust in the hospital, implementation of practices and changes to improve safety at RMC will be the real test. The president and board should get aggressive in regularly informing the public about the changes and improvements related to safety. Public trust in the hospital is essential as RMC is a vital component of life in Orangeburg, Calhoun and Bamberg counties, and for people beyond those county lines.

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