Hospital Task Force holds first meeting

February 8th, 2016

courtesy: Calhoun Liberty Journal

The newly-formed Hospital Task Force held an organizational meeting last week and has started work to establish a higher standard of care at Calhoun-Liberty Hospital in Blountstown.

The task force was established after the death this past December of Barbara Dawson, who collapsed next to a patrol car after being led out of the facility in handcuffs. The 57-year-old woman came in complaining of stomach pain. After doing a scan and a urine test, the medical staff cleared her for discharge.

She left unwillingly, telling the staff she couldn’t breathe. After being taken outside, she fell to the ground and became unresponsive. She was re-admitted to the facility, where she succumbed to a blood clot in her lung.

It was the fourth time a police officer had been called to the facility due to issues involving Dawson, including one time when she was not a patient but visiting others at the facility.

The aftermath of that tragedy has resulted in the hospital CEO Ruth Attaway - on the job for only three months before Dawson’s death - seeking input from community leaders and medical professionals on how to raise the level of care and instill a more professional approach to dealing with patients.

At last Thursday’s meeting, the group agreed to work in specific areas including Access and Standard of Care, Professional Development and Community Interaction.

“What we are trying to do is go forward with what we know about health care in Calhoun and Liberty County and come up with strategies to improve the situation,” explained Task Force Chairwoman Dr. Cyneetha Strong.

“It was a really productive meeting,” she said, pointing out that the task force has members with strong ties to FSU’s College of Medicine and FAMU’s nursing programs. “There was a lot of experience and knowledge assembled in the room.”

She said the task force will work to establish a consistent message “that is patient-centered, all about treating people with respect and concern.”

She pointed out that the lack of resources and the difficulties experienced by the hospital in Blountstown is not unique. She hopes that the recommendations and guidelines they establish will provide guidance to other small community hospitals.

One early goal is to prepare a five-question community survey to determine what residents in the two-county area need.

Another is to review and update the hospital’s procedures, many of which were already outdated, Strong said. Dr. Doris Ballard Ferguson, Retired Associate Dean of Florida A&M University’s Nursing Program, will head up that area. “She is a retired nursing professor who has experience with the Board of Nursing and has the knowledge about putting policies and procedures together,” she said.

“They all seem to be engaged in the process, not just there to have their names on a list,” Attaway commented about the first meeting. “Overall, they were there because they really did care and they want to make a difference.” She added, “I see action as they speak.”

Attaway was elated that Dr. Ferguson has not only taken the lead on the professional development area but has also agreed to teach the hospital staff about customer service - not just at the nursing level, but at all levels.

Blountstown resident Carrie Baker stopped in last week’s meeting to see what direction things were heading and found herself assigned to a committee, according to Attaway. “She’s going to help put together the survey, working with Mark Plummer, Kenneth Speights and Rev. Jackson.”

The group will meet again on Feb. 25 at the library in Blountstown.
Task force members include:

• Dr. Murray Baker, Emergency Room Director, Jackson County Hospital

• Doris Ballard Ferguson, Retired Associate Dean of Florida A&M University’s Nursing Program

• Dr. John Fogarty, M.D., Dean of Florida State University’s College of Medicine

• Reverend Angus Jackson, Pastor of St. Paul AME Church in Blountstown

• Dr. Esias Lee, M.D., Neighborhood Medical Center

• Mark Plummer, Retired Liberty County Pharmacist

• Kenneth Speights, Chairman of the Calhoun County School Board and Director of Social Services at River Valley Rehabilitation Center

• Dr. Cyneetha Strong, M.D., Practicing Family Physician; President, Williams Gunn Medical Association; Past President, Florida Academy of Family Physicians

•Carrie Baker of Blountstown

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