Mercy gets top grade for safety

One-third of Colorado hospitals garner ‘A’s; none gets failing mark

The number of Colorado hospitals receiving an “A” grade for patient safety nearly doubled in the last six months, from seven to 13.

The Washington-based Leapfrog Group sets the grades nationwide and publicizes them to reduce the nearly 400 lives lost every day in U.S. hospitals caused by preventable errors. These include hospital-borne infections and giving the patient the wrong medication or the wrong blood. Hospitals are ranked on their rates of such problems as well as related factors such as staffing levels and prevention practices.

One-third of the 39 ranked Colorado hospitals received an “A” grade in a just-released report, while states like Maine and Massachusetts, with strong hospital-safety programs, saw 80 percent or more receiving the top grade.

Mercy Regional Medical Center is among the Colorado facilities that received the top grade.

The scores on each of 26 safety measures don’t show the number of patients in each category but the rate per 1,000 patients discharged during a certain time period, Melissa Danforth, senior director of hospital rating at The Leapfrog Group, said Thursday.

The grading of safety was done for the first time this year, Danforth said. The scores included the hospital being graded and the best, worst and average rates.

Mercy’s rate was at the top or very near the top in 13 categories, including the absence of blood infection or a foreign object left in a patient after surgery.

Its rate was about average in other measures, such as deaths from serious treatable complications after surgery or accidental cuts or tears from medical treatment.

There is room for improvement in some categories, such as a collapsed lung during treatment.

“The ‘A’ grade affirms the hard work we put into quality and patient safety,” Will McConnell, the chief quality officer at Mercy, said Thursday. “It’s the result of teamwork.”

McConnell said that in its August 2012 edition, Consumer Reports rated Mercy the third-best hospital in Colorado.

Leapfrog gets raw material from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which bases its data on reported information.

“Leapfrog is unbiased in telling the whole truth about how hospitals are doing, no matter how much discomfort that causes many of them. Consumers deserve ‘A’ hospitals, and someday we may see all hospitals earning ‘A’s.’ However, we are not there yet,” said Keith Reissaus, board chairman of The Leapfrog Group, in a news release.

Attaining an “A” once, however, didn’t mean staying in the top ranks. Two Colorado hospitals that received the highest grade in June slipped downward in the new report card. Parkview in Pueblo and St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction both dropped from an A to a C.

St. Mary’s received a zero grade on the size of its nursing staff.

“Their rate of central line-associated bloodstream infections and rate of death from serious treatable complications after surgery also contributed to their grade change,” said Kristi Skowronski, a spokeswoman for The Leapfrog Group.

Parkview was downgraded for somewhat higher rates of infections, accidental cuts and pressure ulcers, among other issues.

Another 11 hospitals in Colorado received a grade of “B,” and 15 received a “C” grade. The last included Exempla Lutheran in Wheat Ridge, which boosted its grade from a “pending” or failing grade last June.

Colorado had none of the 147 hospitals nationwide receiving failing grades in this round of rankings.

The Colorado Hospital Association had objected to the Leapfrog study six months ago but says changes have been made that no longer penalize certain hospitals for failing to report certain safety data. CHA also suggested patients seek personal references for quality hospitals and check other websites with quality data, including Medicare’s Hospital Comparison, the state’s data on infections and CHA’s own Colorado Hospital Report Card.

Herald Staff Writer Dale Rodebaugh contributed to this report.

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