August 02, 2001 11:00 pm

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

If hospitals were graded like students, Grande Ronde Hospital would have an A-minus.

The hospital earned a 93 percent accreditation grade from the Joint Commission on Accreditation for Healthcare Organizations. The commission surveyed the hospital in May and issued a report in late June.

Although earning high marks for patient care, the hospital received recommendations for improvement in some reporting and bylaws.

There were no findings related to care delivered to patients, said Melinda Whittemore, vice president for integrated services. All the recommendations refer to our documentation.

Whittemore said that one surveyor, a physician, wrote in the exit interview that he would choose Grande Ronde Hospital should he become sick in the region.

Its good to have somebody come in from the outside, Whittemore said. This is voluntary, but our board is committed to it.

The commission, recognizing that the hospital is in the process of remodeling its emergency room, did not make recommendations for improvement in that area. The commission did, however, comment on the emergency rooms lock system used to secure narcotics and other drugs.

They felt that the lock system was not adequate, Whittemore said. That is already being taken care of.

We shared our remodeling plans with them. They did mention that our current situation is not ideal, but given how far we are into the remodel, they didnt cite us for that.

The remodeled emergency room is expected to open in the late fall.

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. The commission surveys once every three years.

The hospitals home care program received a score of 92. The only area of concern was the way in which patients are told about the costs of home oxygen systems. Whittemore said the accreditation commission felt we could do a better job with written information.

Other recommendations:

The bylaws that cover medical staff should be rewritten to include more specifics and information about the reasons for a removal. Whittemore said that the hospital board is in the process of amending bylaws.

The documentation that supports the type of orientation for new employees must be improved, detailing the length of time and content of orientation as well

as better evaluation of employee preparedness.

We take these recommendations very seriously, Whittemore said. We were very pleased with the survey and felt it was a positive experience.

The hospital will implement the commissions recommendations and provide a written report within six months.