U.S. News and World Report listed the Anniston hospital this year in its annual Best Regional Hospitals report. Only 140 out of nearly 5,000 surveyed hospitals across the nation were included among the best regional hospital ranking. This is the first time RMC has qualified for the ranking.
“That’s definitely good,” Alabama Hospital Association President Rosemary Blackmon said of RMC’s ranking. “I think the bottom line is people hold this report in very high regard.”
U.S. News defines regional hospitals as those that serve residents living outside large metropolitan areas.
In a recent press release, U.S. News Health Rankings editor Avery Comarow said hospitals such as RMC offer a high level of medical care to communities that otherwise might have limited options.
“All Best Regional Hospitals are what we call ‘high performers’,” Comarow said. “They are fully capable of providing first-rate care, even to most patients who have serious conditions or need demanding procedures.”
U.S. News has published the rankings since 1990 to help people find highly skilled inpatient care. U.S. News determines its rankings by evaluating 16 high-stakes categories at hospitals, such as cardiology and heart surgery, gastroenterology, neurology and neurosurgery. U.S. News reported that the 140 hospitals ranked were ones that performed well enough in at least one of the 16 specialties.
RMC met the criteria for two specialties, performing at the national level in gastroenterology along with neurology and neurosurgery.
“And if RMC got two categories and only 140 hospitals were ranked, I think that’s definitely a good thing,” Blackmon said.
Gastroenterology includes procedures on the digestive system, including colonoscopies and removal of esophageal cancer. Neurology and neurosurgery focuses on a variety of ailments such as strokes, headaches and back, brain and spinal cord problems.
U.S. News based the rankings of those two specialties on a number of factors, including the level of nurse staffing and patient volume at the hospital along with the survival rate for people who have procedures performed there. For instance, U.S. News stated the survival rate at RMC in the two above specialties during the past year was better than expected – with fewer patient deaths occurring 30 days after admittance compared with the number expected after adjusting for severity of disease and other risks.
“This is nothing we applied for,” Judy Gould, vice president of marketing and professional services at RMC, said of the ranking. “But we’re not surprised at having it.”
Jim Baker, director of surgery at RMC, who oversees several departments including gastroenterology, or GI, said he only learned about the ranking a couple of weeks ago but was not surprised by it.
“I’ve been involved in numerous GI labs over the years and this is an excellent one,” Baker said. “Customer service and patient service are above many other hospitals.”
Last year, RMC performed 8,300 gastroenterological procedures.
“It means a lot to me when equipment representatives come in and are in awe of how efficient everything runs and the volume we handle,” said Donna Burt, charge nurse for the gastrointestinal lab at RMC. “They deal with hospitals all over and they’d put us up against the hospitals in Birmingham. The ranking makes me proud of the gastrointestinal lab.”
Dr. Anthony Esposito, neurologist at RMC, said the ranking was encouraging for all staff at the hospital.
“It gives staff the encouragement that they are doing the right thing,” Esposito said. “Hospitals that can compete with larger ones, I think that’s a good thing.”
Esposito said staff in RMC’s emergency room as well as its nurses helped the hospital obtain the ranking through strong patient care. He said a good emergency room physician must know when to work on a patient and when to send the patient to a more specialized physician, such as a neurologist.
“Our physicians are very good at that – at choosing if a patient needs more aggressive procedures,” he said. “And monitoring hydration, blood pressure, just monitoring the patient … I think our nurses do a very good job of that.”
Diane Hawkins, assistant vice president for patient care services at RMC, said it’s very important to provide quality care for a patient throughout his or her entire stay at the hospital, not just during his or her medical procedure.
“We have people do hourly rounds to check on patients, to cut down on them trying to get up and possibly get injured,” Hawkins said. “And we assess every patient for fall risk, particularly stroke patients, and have them wear bracelets so we can identify them readily.”
Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star