Accreditation ensures high-quality patient care despite COVID-19, says Surveyor Merna Bee

November 6, 2020

The accreditation process ensures the delivery of safe, high-quality patient care even during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Surveyor Merna Bee. “Even though we are in a pandemic, we can’t just let it all go,” she said. “Our patients still deserve high-quality care.”

Merna is Leader, Performance and Accreditation at the Fraser Health Authority in British Columbia and is a trained respiratory therapist. She has been a surveyor for Accreditation Canada (AC) since 2015.

Merna noted that the accreditation process sets a “minimum threshold” for the planning and provision of care, setting a common goal that all health organizations and authorities can strive to achieve.

“Even during a pandemic, there is no excuse for the quality of care to fall,” Merna said. “Patient care still happens. Required Organizational Practices (ROPs) continue to be necessary and there are still markers to measure care quality, even if these become more related to the pandemic situation itself.”

Merna adds that though some health teams may find the accreditation process challenging, AC’s standards are achievable. “The standards are very reasonable,” she said. “And if we are doing our jobs properly, the safety of our patients and the quality of care should always be at their best.”

AC Surveyor Merna Bee

Along with 22 other surveyors, Merna participated in Alberta Health Services (AHS)’ recent accreditation survey. Taking place from Sept. 28 to Oct. 2, the survey included 64 sites across the province, with a mix of rural and urban locations, EMS and correctional facilities.

Merna noted that in this ongoing COVID-19 situation, health professionals at all levels are answering the call.

She said that despite the ongoing challenges and fatigue caused by the pandemic, health workers – especially those on the front line – are striving to provide the highest quality care possible. “They are very caring and passionate. They are working to provide a high-quality level of care, despite everything.”

COVID-19 is not Merna’s first pandemic experience. She worked on the front line as a respiratory therapist during the SARS and H1N1 outbreaks. “I believe that when I chose to become a health care professional, I agreed to work during times like this,” she said. “This is what I signed up for.”

Merna added she was not concerned about surveying during a pandemic, as she traveled through western Alberta this summer. “I was prepared for what it’s like to travel during a pandemic. It’s about handwashing, mask wearing and keeping distances,” she said, adding that Fraser Health continually performs mock tracers. “So, returning to the real thing was not too worrisome,” she said.

Merna noted that Fraser Health allows her time to complete two AC surveys per year. She then uses vacation time to complete two additional surveys per year. “It’s something that I really enjoy doing and it ties in nicely with the work that I do at Fraser Health,” she said. “I love being able to bring ideas back to my own health authority and provide feedback.”

Merna said one of her most memorable AC surveyor experiences was during a survey for Covenant Health in rural Alberta.

She explained that she was surveying in an older hospital in a very small town, where there wasn’t a restaurant or anywhere for her to buy lunch. Once the survey was completed, Merna said a staff member went to the grocery store, made her a sandwich and brought her a few snacks. “It was such a small thing, but so lovely and thoughtful,” she said.

Merna noted that accreditation and the quality improvement initiatives that come with it is an ongoing learning process. She said it should be viewed as a circular and continuous process.

Merna said organizations and health authorities should always be accreditation ready and should be continuously striving to improve. “It’s an ongoing initiative to achieve quality in patient care,” she said. “I really believe accreditation should be ingrained in every site, every facility and every health authority.”

Like many Canadians, Merna has found herself spending more time at home since the pandemic began last spring. She noted however, that she has enjoyed being able to spend more time with her family. “We’re less busy running around, doing the things we think we should be doing,” she said. “Now, we spend time with the people who are most important to us.”

Are you passionate about health care and social services in Canada and around the world? Do you want to ensure that health care organizations are offering the best, quality care to patients and their families?

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