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Posted: September 10, 2013 9:02 p.m.

Hospital’s lab re-accredited

When patients are sick and doctors aren’t sure of the cause, they turn to medical laboratories to help identify specific issues. When patients need blood, it’s the lab that provides it.

Newton Medical Center’s laboratory was re-accredited in August for two more years, following a two-day visit by The Joint Commission, a national, independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits approximately 2,500 clinical laboratories across the United States.

"The inspector stated that in her 10-plus years of full-time experience, the survey of the Newton Medical Center lab was one of the best visits in her experience. She then complimented the lab staff, the pathologists and the entire hospital on their work," said Stephanie Reagan, marketing and business development assistant for Newton Medical.

Reagan said the lab is in charge of all blood testing for inpatient and outpatient services, as well as pathology, microbiology and histology; the lab also houses a blood bank.

The Joint Commission survey studies how an organization handles samples from the time they are collected until results make their way to a doctor and patient, according to documentation on its website. Reagan said laboratories must meet hundreds of standards.

"We were well aware of the quality of the services our lab provides to the hospital and the community, but it is important to receive that validation from The Joint Commission," said Kate Smith, Newton Medical’s director of quality improvement. "Since they establish standards for practice in the industry, a very positive survey gives our lab the recognition it very much deserves, and provides it with full accreditation for the next two years."

EMS wins Service of Year award

Earlier this year, Newton Medical Center’s Dept. of Emergency Medical Services was named "Service of the Year" by the state in its region, one of the Georgia’s busiest.

The award is the first for Newton Medical’s EMS department, which answers more than 11,000 calls for service each year, said EMS Director Kevin Johnson. He said Newton Medical’s work and that of its partners earned his department the award.

"Our efforts are seeing great results in the mission before us. We provide excellent emergency patient care to the community and continue those treatments as an extension of the hospital. Having great partners means that we operate as one integrated team, and any entity that touches an emergency medical 911 situation gears their actions toward patient survival and doing great patient care," Johnson said in an email to The News.

In particular, Johnson said the Covington and Newton County fire departments and EMS services all work from one set of patient-care protocols.

"I don’t know of any county in the state (where) various types of departments serving the public work off one set of integrated protocols. Each day these departments interact on training, responding to calls and emergency planning," Johnson said.

The fire departments are often the first responders to emergencies, and firefighters are continually trained as emergency medical technicians.

"A quick example of this partnership is how smoothly the multiple bus accident on I-20 (in May 2012) was resolved. Incident command structure was followed, the scene was secured and a large number of patients were evaluated, treated and tracked without issues. These types of events only go well when the players work as a team and understand the roles of action in what needs to be done," Johnson said. "In Newton County, we are all working off the same page."

Georgia’s EMS Council gives out awards for different regions. Newton County is in Region III, which Johnson said covers an eight-county section of metro Atlanta. The region handles approximately 45 percent of all ambulance 911 calls in the state, said marketing assistant Reagan.

"As chief, he (Johnson) places great emphasis on constant training and technological advancement. By ensuring that his department is being exposed to a range of medical disciplines, Newton Medical Center’s EMS department can continue to provide the best care possible," Reagan said in a press release. Johnson has been with Newton Medical Center for four years; he previously worked for the DeKalb County Fire Rescue Department for 26 years.

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