Top ratings roll in for Saint Alphonsus in Ontario

The daily “huddle” of nearly 30 department managers at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario is one of the crucial building blocks to the hospital’s recent high marks by national organizations regarding its care and operations. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell)

ONTARIO – Excellence doesn’t come easy.

Just ask the staff at Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario.

In the modern era where rural hospitals often struggle, the local care center recently achieved two major milestones.

In November, Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario received an “A” from the Leapfrog Group’s hospital safety grade system.

The Leapfrog Group is an independent national watchdog organization that measures the performances of hospitals in categories such as medical error prevention, injuries, accidents and infections twice a year.

The November grade was the third time in a row the local hospital received high honors under the system. The “A” grade makes Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario one of the safest care centers among 2,600 hospitals considered for the national recognition. 

In December, the local care center was selected as a five-star hospital by the federal Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Safety.

The five-star rating is significant as only about 290 out of 4,500 hospitals nationwide garner the distinction and because this year was the first time Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario was singled out for the high ranking.

The Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Safety assesses a hospital’s mortality rate, readmissions, patient experience and the effective use of medical imaging.

The dual honors are a tribute to the Saint Alphonsus Medical Center Ontario staff, said hospital spokesperson Claudia Weathermon Tester.

“We just really feel proud about our hospital,” said Weathermon Tester.

The two achievements are also the product of hard work, attention to detail and a focus on patients, said Jon Irving, quality care manager for the Ontario hospital.

“The three biggest things we really focus on are readmission rates, our infection rate and our patient satisfaction rates,” said Irving.

Each category is important for different reasons. For example, Irving said, a close study of readmission rates can indicate whether patients are receiving good care. 

Irving said the hospital dedicates a nurse full time to monitor infection rates.

“If something pops up she is alerted daily,” said Irving.

The infections prevention nurse also reports to the state and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We continually report on our infection rates and our readmission. If anything with that changes, we try to analyze down to the root cause,” said Irving.

At the core of the hospital’s success, said Irving, is a daily “huddle” that consists of 28 department managers plus three senior hospital leaders.

 “We talk about any issue in the last 24 hours. Anything from problems with equipment to a patient complaint and we try to be transparent so everyone is aware of what is going on. We try to be as proactive as possible,” said Irving.

Irving said the accolades mean Saint Alphonsus is a first-class facility.

“It shows we really care about our patients and we really want to be the best. We are small but want to provide world-class care,” said Irving.

Weathermon Tester said the recognition may help change the perception that local residents must travel to a large urban area for quality care.

“That’s not true and we’ve shown it,” said Weathermon Tester.

Ken Hart, president of the Ontario hospital, said the dual recognition was possible because of the hospital’s dedicated staff.

“It is not easy. It is everybody in the organization really going in the same direction. I couldn’t be prouder of our staff,” said Hart.

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