MACHIAS, Maine — According to private assessments and surveys completed by its very own patients, Down East Community Hospital has been named in the top 25 percent of hospitals in New England.
The recognition comes from the Harvard Pilgrim Hospital Honor Roll and is an indication of how far the facility has come in the last three years.
“This was just the shot in the arm we needed,” hospital CEO Douglas Jones said Friday. This is the first time in its history that DECH has been named to the honor roll, ranking it among seven other selected hospitals in Maine.
The Honor Roll recognizes acute care hospitals whose performance was among the top 25 percent of those measured nationally. The survey results are based on quality of care and patients’ experiences. They were reported by Hospital Compare, which measures how well hospitals care for patients with certain medical conditions or surgical procedures.
Jones said the recognition was validation of how hard the hospital staff and board of trustees has been working. “This is not just someone’s opinion,” Jones said. “This uses national criteria and is stacking us up against all other New England hospitals.”
Jones said the hospital staff is thrilled at the recognition and added, “There is no end of the confidence in our organization.”
DECH had been plagued by a lack of community confidence and state violations that peaked with the death of a patient in January 2008.
That patient, Reid Emery, 61, of Eastport, checked out of the hospital against doctors’ wishes on a cold, snowy evening and, heavily drugged from his stay at the hospital, was found dead the next day in a nearby snowbank. The nurse responsible for Emery’s care has since lost his nursing license.
An investigation into Emery’s death by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services found, among a number of other deficiencies, that hospital staff had failed to meet the safety needs of the patient.
After a number of investigations into clinical and administrative complaints, the state placed the hospital in receivership in July 2009, with Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems of Brewer taking over operations. Jones expects the receivership will soon be lifted and said the state has been watching the hospital’s improvements during the past year and is pleased.
“We are ready for the receivership to be lifted,” he said.
The hospital had operated under a conditional state license since 2008 after concerns were raised about governance and quality. In March 2010, DECH received full license status from the state due to quality improvements that have been put into place.
For this latest positive recognition, Harvard Pilgrim used Centers for Medicare and Medicaid data for quality measures in the treatment of heart attack and chest pain, heart failure, pneumonia and the surgical care improvement project. In addition, data was used in comparing the prevention of medical errors, appropriate ICU staffing, steps hospitals take to avoid harm and the reduction of in-hospital injuries.
“It is an honor that our efforts to improve quality in clinical and service excellence at Down East Community Hospital are recognized by such a highly regarded organization as Harvard Pilgrim Health Care,” Jones said.