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Published on February 19, 2016

Saint Mary’s Surgeon Highlights Hospital’s Commitment to Quality and Safety

Radio Show Aired in Response to Misleading News Reports

WATERBURY, Conn. (February 19, 2016) ─ Saint Mary’s Hospital sponsored a one-hour radio program focusing on the issues of patient safety and quality. The program, which aired January 13 on WATR 1320 AM as part of Saint Mary’s “Medically Speaking” series, was prompted in part by recent news reports about the infection rates at half of Connecticut’s hospitals.

“Ensuring patient safety and the highest quality of care is a daily mission of our Connecticut hospitals,” said program host Robin Sills, RN, Physician Liaison, Saint Mary’s Hospital. “We’re part of that mission. We have made it a priority. Our patient safety and quality is of the utmost important to us.”

During the program, Dr. Philip Corvo, Chairman of the Stanley J. Dudrick Department Surgery and Director of Surgical Critical Care at Saint Mary’s Hospital, talked about the 2012-2013 data that was cited in the recent news reports, and what Saint Mary’s has done to improve patient safety and quality over the past two years in conjunction with the Connecticut Hospital Association’s statewide High Reliability initiative.

“The idea behind High Reliability training is to look at other industries—usually people talk about the military—to make sure that you are doing things as efficiently and reliably and safely as you can,” Corvo said. “The reality is what they’re doing on a nuclear aircraft carrier, on a space mission, in an operating room is so delicate and so important that no matter what, you can’t be too careful.”

Those other industries had such great safety records that the healthcare industry began to mimic and adopt their safety protocols, which led to the Connecticut Hospital Association’s implementation of a High Reliability training program for all hospitals in the state.

When Connecticut’s hospitals began reporting their data for the state as a whole, they were ahead of other states, but that led to unfair comparisons. “We were being compared to other states that were not reporting all of their data and we very, very quickly looked worse than the others states,” Corvo explained. “Our raw numbers are higher than theirs. But if you look at the percentages, we are the same and frequently better” in terms of the hospital's performance on national quality and safety measures.

In addition the data that was cited in the recent news reports was at least two years old. “In our world, that is a lifetime,” Corvo said. “You can imagine that, two to three years ago, each hospital knew what their own data looked like. They had an opportunity to do something about it. Saint Mary’s [data] was actually OK, but OK is not good enough when you are a highly reliable organization. So we put several new programs into place and significantly reduced our infection rates, our blood clot rates, our bed sore rates, our pneumonia rates. Two or three years from now, you’ll be able to read about those better results in the newspaper.”

As a leader in surgical quality, Saint Mary’s was among the first hospitals in the state to adopt Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocols to enhance the safety of surgical patients and spurred the creation of a statewide surgical safety collaborative that allows hospitals to share outcomes data and solutions to problems.

New approaches to pain control that provide patients with alternatives to prescription medications, shorter hospital stays and new protocols to prepare patients for surgery are also helping to enhance patient safety. “I’m really shooting to have the single best infection rate in the country,” Corvo said.

“One of the important things that we do is a pre-operative checklist. We honestly borrowed this from the aviation industry. Before a plane takes off, the pilots need to check certain things out on the plane. This is in addition to the checking that the engineers may have already done. So when a patient comes in the [operating] room, they’re going to get asked again a whole series of questions that they were asked in the pre-operative area, and now there are a few extra questions that we add on top of it. We’re making sure it’s the right patient. We’re making sure it’s the right surgery, the right procedure. At Saint Mary’s before a patient comes in the operating room, if the surgery is on one side or the other, the surgeon sees the patient pre-operatively and literally draws on the patient where we’re going to be operating. We talk about any allergies. We make sure that if medications are supposed to be given, the right medication was given at the right time. We discuss any special equipment that we may need, and we discuss any potential problems that anyone has identified along the way,” he continued.

“At least as important, and I would argue more important than that check list, is something we call ‘stopping the line.’ If at any point along the course of a procedure, or actually the patient’s whole stay in the hospital, if anyone identifies something that is serious enough where literally everybody needs to stop what they’re doing and pay attention to what has been brought up here, we can literally stand in the Operating Room and say, ‘Everybody stop the line.’ And everything stops. If there is a question that comes up during a procedure and it’s important enough, we can put everything on hold and pause until we get that question answered.”

Any member of the team is empowered through their High Reliability training to make that call to stop the line, whether they are a nurse or a tech or a surgeon, Sills noted.

It’s something the hospital takes seriously, and every member of the staff is required to complete the training, Corvo said.

Another component of Saint Mary’s High Reliability culture is the patient safety meeting, which happens every day at 9 am and involves representatives from every area of the hospital—nurses, physicians and residents, radiology, the Lab, Facilities, Dietary, Security, Administration and more.

“All of these people affect the patient experience,” Corvo said. “We all need to make sure that we are holding each other accountable.”

“It’s the highest level of accountability we can have as an organization,” Sills added.

For more information about Saint Mary’s commitment to patient, listen to the podcast of this program, which is available for free on iTunes along with other broadcasts from Saint Mary’s “Medically Speaking” series. For more information about surgical services at Saint Mary’s Hospital, visit

About Saint Mary’s Hospital

Saint Mary’s Health System is a leading regional healthcare provider anchored by Saint Mary’s Hospital, an acute care community teaching hospital that has served Greater Waterbury for more than 100 years. Licensed for 347 beds, Saint Mary’s is designated as a Level II Trauma Center, offers award-winning cardiac and stroke care and houses the region’s only pediatric emergency care unit. As the leading provider of surgical services in Greater Waterbury, Saint Mary’s was the first to introduce the daVinci® Robotic Surgery System. The health system’s satellites and affiliates extend from Waterbury to Wolcott, Naugatuck, Southbury, Prospect and Watertown. Follow us on Facebook at SaintMarysHospitalCT or Twitter at @SaintMarysCT.

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Jennifer Clement
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(203) 709-6240