Wednesday, October 31, 2012

St. Luke’s emergency department wins award

Patient surveys say service is ‘five star’


By BRENNAN REGO
Express Staff Writer

Dr. Deborah Robertson, the emergency department’s medical director, left, and paramedic Annie Leady discuss hospital employee Jenny King’s medical history in the emergency room at St. Luke’s Wood River. Photo by Willy Cook

    Based on patient surveys, the St. Luke’s Wood River emergency department is top of the line, especially for a rural hospital.
    The department recently won several awards from Avatar International, a Lake Mary, Fla.,-based consulting firm that helps hospitals measure and improve patient satisfaction. The awards included Five Star Service, Overall Best Performer, Bronze Innovation and Exceeding Patient Expectations.
    St. Luke’s spokeswoman Jenny King said Avatar International gives Five Star Service awards only to facilities with the highest score for a particular patient type in Avatar’s national database of more than 400 hospitals. She said Avatar gives the award in five categories: inpatient, outpatient, ambulatory surgery, home health, physician office and emergency.
    “St. Luke’s Wood River’s emergency department was the only emergency department in the country to receive a Five Star Service award this year,” said Megan Thomas, director of St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation.
    Dr. Deborah Robertson, the emergency department’s medical director, said her department offers “urban level” care in a rural hospital.
    “One of the reasons our department can provide that level of service is because our department runs on a deficit of $650,000 per year,” she said. “The hospital administration says the shortfall is worth superior emergency care.”
    Robertson said the department’s goal is to eventually raise an emergency medical services endowment of about $10 million through the St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation. She said the interest from such an endowment would cover the shortfall “in perpetuity.”
    Robertson said she felt lucky to be able to provide first-class emergency care to a community as small as that of the Wood River Valley.
    “We have state-of-the-art equipment here,” she said.
    Robertson said the department’s “coolest toys” include very high-end bedside ultrasounds and a “Glide Scope.”
    “You can put the Glide Scope down someone’s mouth and see their vocal chords,” she said.
    Robertson said tools such as those are becoming standard in urban emergency rooms, but only a fraction of rural emergency rooms have them.
    Robertson said St. Luke’s Wood River has a “disproportionately large” emergency department compared to the size of the hospital, resulting in shorter waiting times for patients than they would experience in a city.
    “The waiting room is the smallest part of our emergency department. That’s usually not the case,” she said.
    Robertson said the department has 10 beds, but rarely reaches capacity. She said the department sees about 7,000 patients per year.
    “Our busiest time of the year is the month of August, followed closely by the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day,” she said.
    However, Robertson said her department is ready year-round for the unknown.
    “If and when ‘it’ does happen, we are a well-oiled machine,” she said.




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