The hospitals of the Blue Mountain Health System, Gnaden Huetten Memorial Hospital in Lehighton, and Palmerton Hospital in Palmerton, have earned Quality Respiratory Care Recognition under a national program aimed at helping patients and families make informed decisions about the quality of the respiratory care services available in hospitals.

About 700 hospitals out of the 5,000 hospitals in the United States have been named a Quality Respiratory Care institution. The Blue Mountain Health System's respiratory departments have been awarded this designation every year since 2004, specifically the Gnaden Huetten campus has received the award each year since 2001 and the Palmerton campus has received the award since 2007.

The Quality Respiratory Care Recognition program was started by the American Association for Respiratory Care in 2003 to help consumers identify those facilities using qualified respiratory therapists to provide respiratory care. Hospitals earning the Quality Respiratory Care Recognition designation ensure patient safety by agreeing to adhere to a strict set of criteria governing their respiratory care services.

To qualify for recognition, the hospitals of the Blue Mountain Health System provided documentation showing it meets the following conditions:

*All respiratory therapists employed by the hospitals to deliver bedside respiratory care services are either legally recognized by the state as competent to provide respiratory care services or hold the RRT (registered respiratory therapist) or CRT (certified respiratory therapist) credential.

*Respiratory therapists are available 24 hours a day.

*Other personnel qualified to perform specific respiratory procedures and the amount of supervision required for personnel to carry out specific procedures must be designated in writing.

*A doctor of medicine or osteopathy is designated as medical director of respiratory care services.

The American Association for Respiratory Care's Quality Respiratory Care Recognition program grew out of growing concern among health care leaders and the general public regarding the safety and quality of health care services provided to patients. Hospitals that meet the Quality Respiratory Care Recognition requirements provide a level of respiratory care consistent with national standards and guidelines, and should be commended for their commitment to quality care.

Respiratory therapists are specially trained health care professionals who work under physician's orders to provide a wide range of breathing treatments and other services to people with asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, AIDS, and other lung or lung-related conditions. The also care for premature infants and are key members of lifesaving response teams charged with handling medical emergencies.

The AARC is a membership organization representing more than 46,000 health professionals involved in respiratory care nation-wide.