In spite of continued accolades, Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital CEO Paul Hammes is not satisfied.
“We never say our goal this year is to win X number of awards. Our goal is to deliver exceptional care to patients and then we know that will be recognized,” said Hammes at the January Leadership Luncheon sponsored by the hospital foundation.
Initiated 15 years ago by Dr. Jim Harrell, previous foundation president, to educate local community leaders on the hospital and provide a networking opportunity, the January session is an overview.
During the first session, citizens were treated to lunch and lessons including the history of healthcare in the community beginning with the first recorded surgical procedure in Elkin.
“Royalls was the location of the first recorded healthcare service that was provided in Elkin. It was an appendectomy. Thankfully they have taken those off the menu,” said Hammes, jokingly.
In spite of the humor, Hammes was serious about the safety of patients and their quality of care.
“When it comes to the quality of care, there’s nothing more important than keeping our patients free from harm,” said Hammes, revealing that the third leading cause of death in the United States is preventable medical errors.
“It’s estimated that over 400,000 lives are lost each year in this country due to preventable medical errors,” said Hammes, who doesn’t believe it is necessarily due to bad employees.
“It’s because healthcare is extremely complicated and a simple process like giving an accurate medication involves so many steps from the time a patient is diagnosed and it’s ordered and it’s filled and it’s put into a box and it’s checked and it’s administered.
“The right dose. The right medication. The right delivery method. It’s complicated and like any organization that wants to be high reliability we need to have a culture where people feel safe raising their hand around potential concerns so that we can fix it not just there but throughout the whole system.
“While the incidence rate is low of something bad happening in aviation or nuclear power, the consequences are catastrophic when something happens and so we have adopted that approach,” said Hammes, explaining that protocols are in place to hardwire safety measures in every aspect of the hospital system.
One of those protocols is rewarding any staff member from surgeon to sanitation who reports a potential problem.
“When a staff member speaks up and they find something that can cause harm, we want to celebrate it,” said Hammes. “We want to reinforce [that all employees should] speak up and let us know if [they] see something that is a concern and we will look at the specific issue and we look across the system.”
It is a significant system to look at, with not only an 80-acre campus surrounding the hospital itself, but satellite offices and partnerships throughout the Yadkin Valley and expanding into the foothills.
“I’m excited to share that Wake Forest Baptist Health and Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital have formed a joint venture company and we’re going to have equal ownership in Alleghany Memorial Hospital in Sparta and we are weeks away from signing definitive documents,” said Hammes.
This will add to the extensive HCMH family, which includes Parkwood Place Independent Living and Yadkin Valley Home Health, as well as partners like Mountain Valley Hospice and Palliative Care.
“[There were] nearly 175,000 visits through Hospice in the most recent year. At the Woltz Hospice Home, it’s a small number that we have,” said Hammes, “so many Hospice visits in the community are in-home and that is an amazing, amazing service. We’re so proud to be a part of that.”
Hammes is also proud of the Hugh Chatham Medical Group.
“We have 24 physician practices across five counties spanning from Boomer in Wilkes County to Independence in Virginia to Dobson and everything in between.”
Hammes has a lot to be proud of in the HCMH system including a superior stroke team, a 10,000-square-foot cancer center and an increasingly improving emergency department.
“Of all the venues, it’s probably the most challenging to provide a truly consistently exceptional care experience in the emergency department because we queue patients by clinical acuity. We may be dealing with a stroke and a heart attack in front of that patient [who has been waiting for two hours] and you know we can’t give a lot of information specifically about people.
“We’ve got a stellar emergency department team and set of doctors. They do a great job,” said Hammes. “We are focused on this and moving in the right direction, so I’m very, very pleased with that.”
The accolades are due to the culture created at the hospital by following through with the vision statement, “to be the best community hospital in the nation with service as our guiding principle.”
“I love our vision statement because it is simple, it’s lofty, and anybody in the organization no matter their role can appreciate how it applies to [them] and the work that [they] do each and every day,” said Hammes.
“We don’t want to be better than average, we want to be the very best,” said Hammes. “We want to be the very best at what we do and we’re very excited about the progress we’ve made.”
Still Hammes is not satisfied.
“Anybody that knows anything about health care knows that it’s in a state of disruption,” said Hammes, exhibiting recent headlines from around the country.
Hammes explained part of the reason is the shift from care focused at the hospital to less expensive venues resulting in a variety of outpatient and home healthcare options, however it is more than facilities that make a successful hospital system.
“The way you succeed long term is about your culture, because your culture defines your vision. It defines how you go after it. It helps you define your structure and your processes and it really is fundamentally at the core of everything you do as an organization.
“We’ve had an ongoing discussion around culture. We’ve gotten clear on what’s important,” said Hammes.
“Nothing is more important than the patient experience at Hugh Chatham.”
For more information on Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital including how to connect as an employee as well as the facilities and services available, go to www.hughchatham.org.
Beanie Taylor can be reached at 336-258-4058 or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TBeanieTaylor.