Hospital Says Formal, Written Complaints Result in Improved Patient Care

Humboldt General Hospital is reminding its patients that it takes complaints very seriously.

However, Nora Andersen, the facility's Quality and Risk Management Director, said if a complaint is not formally submitted, "then we are really at a disadvantage because we don't have adequate and correct information to follow up."

Andersen said the hospital is making a concerted effort to make sure patients, their families and friends, and even HGH staff members have ready access to a "Patient Complaint Form."

The form helps document how and by whom the complaint was submitted. It also asks for information on the person filing the complaint, the date of the incident in question, the applicable department, and the nature of the complaint, which may focus on quality of care, billing, customer service or some other area of concern.

Space is included for a full description of the complaint as well as a place for the person to sign and date the form.

"This is a very uniform, consistent way for us to not only become aware of a complaint," said Andersen, "but to track it and make sure that it is resolved properly."

Complaints may be submitted in person, via mail or phone. Andersen said she will respond in writing or verbally within seven business days. If a concern requires a lengthier investigation, complainants will be notified of the need for an extension.

Andersen's job focuses on improving the quality of care that patients receive at the hospital, while minimizing the facility's potential for adverse incidents.

"I'm here to help all our departments look for best practices," she said, "for ways to hit a higher benchmark. We want all departments to have specific targets that they're working toward."

Andersen said it is difficult to follow up and address concerns about patient care for which no complaint has ever been filed.

"Please complete a Patient Complaint Form," she said. "Help us help you. We cannot adequately improve patient care unless people are willing to share their experience with us."

Like most boards, the Humboldt County Hospital District Board of Trustees entertains occasional complaints during the public commentary portions of its meetings. Andersen said federal privacy laws make it difficult for the hospital to respond in that particular venue to those complaints.

"It's just the wrong forum," she said. "People don't have to air their patient care or their billing concerns in front of everyone else. We have a system in place so we can meet, gather confidential information and see if there was a breakdown somewhere in the process."

Andersen added, "We all need to be committed to making sure that quality comes first, but in order for us to do that effectively, we need our patients to understand and use the processes we have in place."

For more information on filing a written complaint with Humboldt General Hospital, please contact Nora Andersen, HGH Quality/Risk Management Director, 118 E. Haskell Street, Winnemucca, Nevada 89445, or call her directly at (775) 623-5222, ext. 280.

Copies of the hospital's "Patient Complaint Form" can also be found at all reception desks or by requesting a copy from any hospital employee.

# # #