A national accreditation group that investigated a patient safety complaint at Summa Akron City Hospital’s emergency department has cleared the health system.

Investigators from the Joint Commission, an Illinois-based independent organization that accredits and certifies health care organizations, were in Akron City’s ER for an unannounced two-day visit late last week.

In a memo sent to Summa staff on Thursday afternoon, Summa interim President and CEO Dr. Cliff Deveny said a report showed “the surveyors found no cause for concern regarding the quality of care being provided to our emergency medicine patients.

“This is a testament to the great work our collective team of caregivers is doing each and every day to ensure our community is well taken care of, and I applaud them for their commitment and service to our patients,” he said.

The complaint was filed around the time Summa Health abruptly switched emergency medicine doctors on New Year’s Day after contract negotiations failed.

Summa Health is waiting to hear whether an appeal to another national group’s suspension of its emergency medicine residency training program and probationary status of its other training programs will succeed.

Deveny said the Joint Commission report did cite one item “which involved one physician early in the transition process who treated a small number of patients prior to the completion of that physician’s individual credentialing process.”

“This did not impact patient care as the provider is a board certified emergency medicine provider, but it was an error that we take responsibility for,” Deveny said in the memo. “As cited in the report, we caught and corrected the error within a matter of a few hours and put measures in place to ensure it did not occur again. The Joint Commission termed this detail ‘Low’ in likelihood to cause harm and ‘Limited’ in scope meaning it is a ‘unique occurrence that is not representative of routine/regular practice, and has the potential to impact only one or a very limited number of patients, visitors, staff,’?” Deveny said.

Summa spokesman Mike Bernstein said the health system wasn’t told the reason for last week’s unannounced visit but the commission surveyors visited only the emergency department.

Spokespeople for Summa and the Joint Commission would not say whether there were multiple complaints filed regarding patient concerns at Summa. Bernstein said the report was final and Summa would respond to the one concern within the allotted 60 days.

Summa officials declined to release the report, saying the report is private and out of respect for the Joint Commission, it will not be released. The Joint Commission also declined to release the report.

Under pressure

The health system, which includes Akron City Hospital, has been embroiled since Jan. 1 in challenges after an abrupt change in its ER physician group after contract negotiations with its longtime physician group broke down.

The turmoil reached the top of Summa’s leadership, with CEO Dr. Thomas Malone resigning under pressure in late January after hundreds of doctors voted no-confidence in him and his leadership. Recently, some emergency room nurses said they believed some of the new ER physicians put patients’ lives in danger. Summa and the emergency medicine doctor group disputed the nurses’ allegations, saying the ER physicians are qualified and competent.

Last week, a group of 49 physicians came forward, saying they believe in the health system and its ER, and wanted to tout Summa’s positive strengths.

Deveny, an Akron native and Summa veteran who returned to start his job as interim leader on March 13, ended his memo by saying: “I understand there has been a great deal of discussion about the transition of our emergency departments. I take that feedback seriously and I encourage productive dialogue throughout Summa Health. But it is time to move beyond rumor and innuendo and remain rooted in the facts. We must acknowledge the tremendous care being provided across our emergency departments and we must take seriously reports such as this one from the Joint Commission that reinforce the quality of that care.”

Program suspension

Summa is awaiting word on its recent appeal of a Feb. 9 suspension of its emergency medicine doctor-in-training or residency program, effective July 1. The Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education suspended Summa’s ER residency program and put Summa’s other residency programs on probation.

That prohibits the hospital from starting new residency programs, increasing the size of those that exist and requiring programs to notify applicants for the recent match that it was on probation.

If Summa does not win its appeal of the ER program suspension, 20 ER medical residents will need to move to other teaching facilities.

Ten third-year ER medical residents will be able to finish the program and graduate by July 1.

Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ  on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty.