April 20, 2001 11:00 pm

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

Grande Ronde Hospital is finishing one final review before the big test.

As happens once every three years, a national accreditation team, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, is arriving in La Grande for an in-depth study. The team will be at the hospital from April 30 through May 2, and later this year, the commission will evaluate the lab.

The commission dots every i and crosses every t before it delivers a grade on physician performance, safety standards, nursing performance, nutrition planning, home health services, infection control, and many other areas. Record-keeping is an important area of survey.

Several hospital officials talked earlier this week about the upcoming accreditation survey.

This is an opportunity for us to showcase our services and our quality of care, said Janet Wright, vice president-patient care services.

Wright and Dr. Tim Gleason, vice president for physician relations, believe the hospital will receive high scores for patient care.

Patient care quality will shine through, Wright said.

Administrator James Mattes agreed, saying, I think well score well.

The remodeling of the hospitals emergency room may lower the possible scores for outside safety, Gleason said. The limited parking and traffic patterns in place because of construction may affect the safety rating, he said.

Hospitals must meet quality standards set by the state, Medicare and the joint commission. When a hospital chooses to be accredited by the joint commission, the state and Medicare waive their right to survey, Mattes said.

Were working with standards all the time, Wright said. Pain management and restraint management are key areas.

There are hundreds of standards and each requires a lot of preparation, Mattes said. We strive to meet the most stringent standards.

The joint commissions survey team does not arrive with a hammer, and team members communicate with hospital personnel.

Theres some give and take, Mattes said.

All facets of the hospital and hospital personnel are involved in the accreditation survey. Board members participate, doctors visit with team members, nurses discuss issues, and the doctors who head hospital departments are responsible for providing the team information about the internal workings of the departments.

My staff is expected to be here, alert and available, Wright said.

The accreditation team looks into all aspects of medical care, even reviewing surgical notes, Gleason said.

These standards affect doctors in a large way, Mattes said.

Even the community at large can get involved. The hospital published a notice announcing the coming arrival of the survey team. Community residents may meet and talk with team members during the three-day process.

The cost of the accreditation survey is $18,000, said Kathy Weber, hospital spokeswoman. The lab survey will cost approximately $2,000.

There are several rankings of accreditation, and the highest ranking carries a commendation, but Mattes said that is rarely awarded and Grande Ronde has never received a commendation.

Nobody gets a perfect score, he said. During our last survey we scored 91 or 92 percent.

This year, percentage ratings are down from some previous years, with many hospitals scoring in the 80 percent range.