October 25, 2013

Maine’s hospitals ranked top in nation for safety

Mercy Hospital keeps its ‘A’ grade while Maine Medical Center stays at ‘B.’

By MATT HONGOLTZ-HETLING Morning Sentinel

Patients are less likely to be harmed during medical procedures in Maine than in any other state in the nation, according a watchdog group.

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Mercy Hospital has earned a top safety rating from Leapfrog, a nonprofit hospital safety group.

Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Injuries suffered at hospitals can be serious, with 400,000 deaths nationwide each year attributable to medical errors that could be prevented, said Leapfrog, a nonprofit group that promotes hospital safety.

Some of the 28 safety conditions measured by Leapfrog are patient outcomes, such as how many patients’ lungs collapsed because of medical treatment, how many wounds split open after surgery, or how many postsurgical infections occurred.

Other measurements are based on characteristics such as hand hygiene rules, the size and quality of the nursing workforce, the use of technology to safeguard against human medication errors, and leadership structures.

Among the “A” hospitals in southern Maine were Central Maine Medical Center, Goodall, Mercy, MidCoast, Parkview Adventist, Southern Maine Medical Center, St. Mary’s and York hospitals. Maine Medical Center received a “B” rating.

In Maine, 80 percent of 20 rated hospitals received an A, the top grade, while nationally, only 32 percent of 2,539 rated hospitals received an A.

“We’re obviously very pleased to see that,” said Jeff Austin, vice president of government affairs for the Maine Hospital Association. He said Maine’s hospitals tend to do well on quality and safety issues because they responded early to concerns expressed by the Institute of Medicine about hospital quality about a decade ago.

Maine has 39 hospitals in all, but Leapfrog evaluated only general acute-care hospitals. Some general hospitals did not have sufficient data available for Leapfrog to give them a grade, according to Leapfrog’s report.

SOME GRADES CHANGED

As a group, the 80 percent figure is equal to Maine’s score from Leapfrog’s last report six months ago, but the grades for some individual hospitals changed.

Under the grading system, MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Waterville and Augusta campuses, which are ranked separately, both did worse than they did six months ago. Waterville’s Thayer campus received a C grade, down from a B, while the Augusta hospital also received a C, down from an A six months ago.

Dr. Steve Diaz, chief medical officer at MaineGeneral, said the hospital takes safety seriously and is researching how it scored on each of the 28 measures to see where the lowered grades came from.

“We have not had a lot of time to dig into it,” he said, noting that the hospital plans to open its new $312 million regional facility, the Alfond Center for Health, on Nov. 9.

A $10 million renovation of the Thayer center in Waterville is scheduled to begin later this year.

Diaz said Leapfrog is one of several groups that use different sets of data to draw conclusions about a hospital’s quality and safety levels.

He said MaineGeneral does well on safety scores given by other agencies, such as health care provider Anthem. Anthem’s annual report for 2012 gave MaineGeneral a perfect score, making it the highest-rated of 63 hospitals in the network on patient safety, health outcomes and member satisfaction.

Austin said so much hospital information is available that each organization’s rating – whether expressed in stars, blue ribbons or letter grades – should be looked at as part of a larger picture.

Diaz said MaineGeneral wants to improve in Leapfrog’s ratings, too.

“I predict we’ll do better,” Diaz said. “We’re going to gain lots of ground once we get settled in the new building.”

The only other downgrade in the state was issued to St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor, which went from an A grade six months ago to a C grade this week.

(Continued on page 2)

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