Alta Bates Ratings Rise on Eve of Union Talks By RICHARD BRENNEMAN

Tuesday August 09, 2005

The Alta Bates hospitals have risen a notch on the five-level accreditation scale of the private agency whose imprimatur is required for federal patient dollars, but they still fall short of full accreditation. 

The evaluation came down Friday, two days before the opening of bargaining talks with officials of SEIU-United Health Care Workers West (UHCWW), one of two unions which had planned a strike Monday, said union spokesperson Kay Carney. 

The negotiations began at 1 p.m. Monday, following ground rules laid out between union officials and Sutter Health Care, the Sacramento-based health care chain that owns Alta Bates. 

Talks with the second union, the California Nurses Association (CNA), are scheduled for next week, said CNA spokesperson Charles Idelson. 

The critical evaluation raises the hospital from the fourth to the third rung of the accreditation ladder—from preliminary denial to conditional accreditation. 

The two higher rungs are provisional and full accreditation; the lowest is outright denial. 

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospital Organizations—JCAHO—issued the preliminary denial of accreditation when they published their survey of the Alta Bates last Nov. 6. 

That document spelled out 20 significant deficiencies in patient care and pharmacy operations. 

Friday’s decision meant that problems in four areas had been resolved. Three other findings were reversed following a meeting between hospital and members of a JCAHO review panel in Chicago on May 12. 

The conditional approval rating applies to all but the hospitals’ laboratories—which are fully accredited—at the Alta Bates Summit Medical Center at 2450 Ashby Ave., the Herrick campus at 2001 Dwight Way and the Summit campus at 350 Hawthorne Ave. in Oakland, said JCAHO spokesperson Charlene Hill. 

“Out of over 300 hospital standards reviewed by JCAHO, Alta Bates has 13 remaining issues to address in our plan of correction,” said CEO Warren Kirk in a prepared statement Friday. “This has been a difficult journey but I am extremely proud of the way the Alta Bates Medical Center family has rallied together. I have no doubt we will progress through to the full three-year accreditation.” 

The JCAHO defines conditional accreditation as a designation given to “a health care organization that is not in substantial compliance with the standards ... the organization must remedy identified problem areas and undergo an on-site follow-up survey.” 

Denial of accreditation can mean major problems for a hospital through loss of Medicare and Medical payments.