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From July 11 through 15, Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune was the site for two quality assurance inspections by the Joint Commission, an independent, nonprofit organization that accredits and certifies the overall performance of more than 19,000 medical establishments and programs across the country, and the Naval Medical Inspector General.

Photo by Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

Joint Commission, Inspector General put NHCL under the microscope

18 Jul 2011 | Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

Every three years, a tiny shiver crawls up the spines of those in U.S. naval hospitals. At any time, their respective hospital will be put under the microscope, poked and prodded and shown against a multitude of proficiency standards, making or breaking a hospital’s reputation. A week of triple-checking oneself and waiting in anticipation, the Joint Commission draws near.

The JC is an independent, nonprofit organization that accredits and certifies the overall performance of more than 19,000 medical establishments and programs across the country. Their ratings are recognized nationwide and speaks of the levels of health care quality and professionalism of each medical organization, thoroughly examining every intricacy of that hospital.

But for Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, the JC is not alone.

Alongside the JC inspection team is another group of health care quality assurance professionals led by the Naval Medical Inspector General – the Navy’s version of the JC that leads their own investigative team. With these two make-or-break forces descending upon NHCL, it was an all-out medical health and comfort inspection for Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune, July 11 through 15.

“This week of inspection occurs randomly as so not to allow health care organizations the opportunity to prepare for their visit,” said Navy Capt. Daniel Zinder, commanding officer of NHCL. “On the side of naval medical hospitals, there is no need for preparation. What we present to these inspections is what we operate on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. However, there are still feelings of anxiety when you have 14 inspectors examining everything the hospital has to offer, looking for something to hit you on.”

The JC inspections examine such things as overall hospital safety and the chain of events from diagnosis to discharge while the NMIG focuses on patient relations, how well health care providers know their jobs and the structure of the hospital command, from Zinder down to the newest sailor.

On average, the inspector general records an average of 12 finds for the Navy’s various medical institutions with NHCL coming out with only eight. While the final reports for either the JC or NMIG have been published, inspectors concluded the week with only eight findings.

“The JC surveyors commented all week on how nicely things were going,” said Zinder. “Nothing major had been found – they said they had to dig very deeply into things to uncover something to record. After it was completed, they said they had the shortest hit list for a hospital in 17 years.”

That is exactly the sort of quality that NHCL constantly brings to the table. A forerunner of all health care establishments in the Navy, NHCL continually strives to provide the best service to anyone who walks through their doors. From Patient Relations representatives to a 24-hour-a-day nurses’ hotline, NHCL “takes care of the guardians of peace,” per its motto, as well as the families of those guardians.

Such is a fact that is once again verified by both the Joint Commission and the Naval Medical Inspector General. Of the large number of programs the hospital boasts, each one puts patient care first, and again with the reports not yet finalized, it is a fact both inspecting parties have verified.

“It is extremely validating for them to come in, put us under the microscope and tell us that we’re doing a great job,” said Zinder. “However, with the inspections completed, it’s not like we let our guard down and dial down our proficiency. We constantly maintain the highest level of health care service we can and are always looking for ways to improve ourselves.”