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Windom Area Hospital Earns Surgical Patient Safety Award

Windom Area Hospital has earned a Minnesota Hospital Association Patient Safety Excellence Award for its work on preventing objects from being retained after a patient has surgery or other procedure through the SAFE ACCOUNT initiative. The initiative is a statewide campaign focusing on counting and accounting for surgical items used in the operating or procedure room in an effort to prevent them from being unintentionally left behind in patients. The award is given to teams achieving more than 90 percent of the actions in the SAFE ACCOUNT Roadmap to Preventing Retained Objects in the O.R.

“Hospitals that receive these awards are to be commended — the bar is set very high,” said MHA Patient Safety Vice President Tania Daniels. “Hospitals that qualify have achieved measurable and meaningful progress toward implementing best practices to drive down adverse health events.”

“When the Windom Area Hospital Board established a goal to improve quality of care and patient safety, we knew that our staff were already committed to achieving excellence,” explains Gerri Burmeister, Windom Area Hospital Administrator. “The staff is to be commended for their continued commitment to patient safety and the prevention of adverse health events. We are proud of the work they have accomplished, and continue to accomplish.”

The SAFE ACCOUNT roadmap provides a detailed list of recommended actions:

S – SAFE ACCOUNT teams. Hospitals establish SAFE ACCOUNT champions, and adopt an interdisciplinary team approach for implementation.
A – Access to information. Teams verify the completion of each step of the process in “real-time,” and audit the effective completion of the account process.
F – Facility expectations. Hospitals set expectations for implementation of the process for any O.R. procedure. The full surgical team is accountable for preventing retained objects.
E – Educate staff. Hospitals provide education for all clinical staff involved in the O.R. procedures.


Team Accountability:
— Communication. Teams communicate using standardized processes and standard nomenclature for objects as well as visual communication.

Accounting for Items:
— Pre-procedure. Teams account for any items left behind from a previous case. Account for using radiopaque soft goods, and account for items being intact.
— The Count Process. Teams perform specific steps of the counting process, following best practices. They maintain an optimal environment for accurate counting.
— During the Procedure. Teams account for placement of “tucked” and “packed” items as well as account for countable items added after the baseline count. They also account for items being intact.
— End of Procedure. The surgical team is accountable for all counted items involved in the procedure. Any equipment and miscellaneous items are accounted for. Team ensures removal of any items intentionally retained during the procedure, designated for removal before the end of the procedure or following the procedure. Methodical wound exploration is performed. Account for any remaining items at the end of the procedure.
— Reconcile Discrepancies. A standardized and systemized process is in place to attempt to reconcile any discrepancies in the counts or the accounting of items.

For more information about the SAFE Account campaign, visit the Minnesota Hospital Association website at, or contact Windom Area Hospital’s Director of Patient Care, Kari Witte, RN, at (507) 831-0665.

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