Two groups of inspectors to give Naval Hospital Beaufort a going-over

Naval Hospital Beaufort will be inspected this week by a national nonprofit group responsible for accrediting 88 percent of all U.S. hospitals.

The Joint Commission, which evaluates medical facilities using more than 100 standards, will review everything from Naval Hospital Beaufort's staff size to how it gives medication to patients.

Making the rounds with the Joint Commission will be 10 inspectors from the Navy Medical Inspector General's Office, who will make sure the hospital's military procedures are up to snuff.

While the Joint Commission is focused on grading patient care, customer service and other internal procedures, Navy officials will check to make sure the hospital's command staff is following Navy regulations, such as monitoring vacation time for sailors' stationed there.

"For about 10 years now, they've been coordinating their visits," said Capt. Mark Bernier, commanding officer of Naval Hospital Beaufort. "It's no coincidence that they're coming at the same time. It's going to be a busy week."

The hospital was last evaluated by the Joint Commission in August 2006, and though the hospital was accredited, Bernier said the survey indicated areas that needed improvement, particularly the way hospital staff manage patients' medications.

The Joint Commission inspects hospitals every three years. The inspectors ask patients how well doctors, nurses and other hospital staff members communicated with them and whether they would recommend the facility to others.

Bernier said after the 2006 survey, the hospital made changes to ensure a patient's newly prescribed medications don't conflict with existing prescriptions.

"We've definitely improved upon those areas, gone back and reviewed our internal policies and made sure they were understood throughout the facility."

Bernier said he hoped the hospital would meet the Joint Commission's National Patient Safety Goals, a set of standards revised annually by the group to improve patient safety and care.

"I would love for them to come back and say that we've met each of those patient safety goals," he said. "That's the best possible endorsement we could get because it would indicate that we are safely providing state-of-the-art care for our patients."

Opened in April 1949, Naval Hospital Beaufort employs more than 400 people in its 200-bed primary care facility along Ribaut Road in Port Royal. The hospital provides medical care to active-duty and retired military personnel and their families in the Beaufort area.

While private hospitals sometimes rely on the Joint Commission's stamp of approval to qualify for federal Medicare and Medicaid certification, Bernier said the hospital uses the group's survey as a measuring stick.

"Prior to the last survey, the Joint Commission would give us six months or more notice before a survey, and now we get about seven days," he said. "I think everyone agrees that that's the best way to move forward because it ensures a continued examination and improvement of our processes."

Surveyors arrived at the Naval Hospital on Tuesday and are expected to conclude their inspection Friday.

Bernier said representatives from Naval Hospital Charleston and Beaufort Memorial Hospital would be shadowing Joint Commission inspectors this week to prepare for surveys at those hospitals later this year.