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KershawHealth board gets annual safety report

Posted: February 14, 2014 6:35 p.m.
Updated: February 17, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Safety and security were the lead topics at a KershawHealth Board of Trustees’ meeting Feb. 10. KershawHealth Director of Safety and Emergency Preparedness Abby Palmer, RN, presented the board with her annual safety report. Her report provided safety and security highlights from 2013, and looked ahead to 2014.

Palmer said KershawHealth uses seven subcommittees to address safety issues in the healthcare system.

“They cover a wide variety of topics, so on any given day, I may be found giving a safety brief to a construction crew, managing a security issue, activating our decon team, running a ‘Code Red’ fire drill or just down in the boiler room with the guys from maintenance figuring out why we don’t have hot water for our patients,” Palmer said.

Looking back at 2013, Palmer started with security. She said one of the things KershawHealth did was upgrade its surveillance capabilities with 10 additional cameras and one 16-channel monitor. Later in the meeting, answering a question from Trustee Eric Boland, Palmer did say that security cameras cannot be monitored 24 hours a day.

“Security officers can be multi-tasked on numerous occasions. For example, if a helicopter comes in … they go out and make sure that area is secured.

Interim CEO Terry Gunn said more security could always be used at a facility like KershawHealth.

“My experience is that with 911 and our local police -- they respond very, very quickly. That’s for true, hands-on professional law enforcement, they are there when we need them,” Gunn said.

Palmer said KershawHealth also added another “code” to its repertoire.

“We created a ‘Code White’ policy,” she said, “which provides guidelines to help manage situations where someone may be exhibiting disruptive or threatening behavior.”

Palmer said a Code White response team was also created with members specifically trained on techniques to defuse such situations.

In addition, KershawHealth changed its concealed weapons policy to comply with S.C. State Law Enforcement Division specifications. Later in the meeting, Boland also asked about whether KershawHealth uses armed security guards. Palmer and Gunn said, no, that is not the case.

“Generally, given the training that you see with security guards that are for hire, they are not trained as a policeman would be,” Gunn said. “Across the nation, usually, incidents where a security guard is armed and end up in an interaction with someone, they often end up very badly and not for the perpetrator.”

He said most community hospitals feel it is better to have a presence of security without firearms versus urban trauma centers where they may be more necessary.

Palmer also reported that KershawHealth is required to go through two emergency preparedness drills each year. In 2013, the first drill was a National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) exercise, with the military playing a large role, she said. KershawHealth participated in the NDMS exercise along with 15 other agencies and area hospitals under a scenario where an explosive device detonated at a stadium in Charlotte, N.C. More than 100 people were “injured” overwhelming Charlotte hospitals.

“NDMS was activated. The Air Force began air-evacing patients to the Columbia airport, where they were staged, triaged and transported to NDMS hospitals,” Palmer said. “KershawHealth received and treated 18 casualties.”

The second disaster drill, named Operation Burning Agent, was used to test a new triage process and involved a simulated chlorine chemical tanker accident.

“Weeks before the exercise, our decon team chief built a miniature, 3-D model … an exact replica of the parking lot and how buildings, equipment and staff were positioned,” Palmer said.

She said 22 ATEC students acted as casualties at Pine Tree Hill Elementary School. The decon team, Palmer said, is made up of 25 members and has been activated on numerous occasions for real-world events.

“Since the ‘accident’ included a chemical spill, we activated our decon team. We established our new, expanded triage area, the idea being to treat patients outside until inpatient areas are ready to receive them,” she explained.

Palmer said KershawHealth successfully “triaged, treated, transported and tracked” all 22 casualties during the exercise.

Palmer also said the healthcare system enjoys a relationship with the Camden Fire Department, which provides fire extinguisher training. In 2013, that included approximately 200 new KershawHealth employees, she said. In addition, Palmer said KershawHealth participated in 59 fire drills across all its campuses.

As part of its commitment to safety, KershawHealth undergoes utility upgrades each year. In 2013, that included a new chiller for the Karesh Long-Term Care Center and an air handler for Surgical West.

“Safety is paramount,” Palmer said. “We take extreme care with installing these 15-ton units. In addition, we replaced six elevators, which required everyone’s patience and coordination, but as you (know), it was well worth the wait.”

KershawHealth also worked with its community safety partners in 2013.

“We provide medical coverage for the Cup. KershawHealth contributed to a successful Toys for Tots campaign with more than 900 toys collected for local children at Christmas. Once again, we had a strong presence at Fire Fest where we set up some of our emergency preparedness equipment and answered any questions that people had,” Palmer said.

For 2014, Palmer said KershawHealth is replacing its entire fire alarm system and continues to build what she called a “hospital emergency coalition” -- a Midlands-area group of 12 hospitals working collaboratively and sharing resources to enhance emergency preparedness.

Also during the Feb. 10 meeting, Gunn provided the board with another update on patient volumes calling them KershawHealth’s “greatest opportunity to grow.” He said inpatient admissions are up 8 percent over budget for the month of February so far.

“That’s very encouraging; I think that’s the first time we’ve seen the admission line move into the positive numbers,” Gunn said, with KershawHealth Executive Vice President and COO/CFO Mike Bunch agreeing.

Emergency Department visits are 9 percent below budget for the month of February so far. Gunn said that is still good news because the below budget percentages for such visits used to be in the double-digits. Back on the positive side is news that admissions from the emergency department are 40 percent above budget so far in February.

Gunn reported that inpatient surgeries are 12 percent over budget while outpatient surgeries are 23 percent below budget for the first part of February.

“We’re still trying to see how we can spark that up, but it’s very encouraging, overall, when I looked at the volume reports,” he said. “So, slow, steady growth -- that’s where we are as of today.”

Another focus point for trustees Feb. 10 was strategic planning. Gunn reported on that activity on behalf of Trustee Susan Outen who chairs the board’s strategic planning committee. He said that during an upcoming meeting, the committee planned to go over the plan’s format. He said it would be “very comprehensive” and that it was very vital since it would look at a three-year horizon for KershawHealth. Gunn said the committee wants to get the plan started “correctly” and include stakeholders from across the county in the process. He reiterated a point made during earlier meetings that a working draft of the plan should be completed by the end of March.

Also during the Feb. 10 meeting, the board received an audit report on KershawHealth’s Fiscal Year 2013 finances from Mike Kelly, a CPA and partner with Dixon Hughes Goodman. The fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2013. The audit received an “unmodified” or “clear” opinion, the highest opinion an audit can receive. Kelly also reported on the healthcare system’s 403(b) retirement plan.

Following Kelly’s report, trustees voted unanimously to amend KershawHealth’s pension plan document. Most of the changes involved “housekeeping” of language in the document.

Trustees also entered executive session Feb. 10 to discuss a contractual matter involving the emergency department and to receive an undisclosed legal review.

(The online version of this story updates the first sentence of the 18th paragraph to reflect previously unknown information that ATEC students participated in a disaster exercise.)

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