Leapfrog Report: Arkansas hospitals receive mixed safety grades

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 1,163 views 

Just five of 27 hospitals across the Natural State earned the highest possible safety grade for patient care, according to a recent report from Leapfrog.

Mercy Hospital Rogers, Mercy Hospital Fort Smith, Magnolia Regional Medical, Ouachita County Medical and Unity Health White County in Searcy joined 818 other medical hospitals across the country to score an “A” for their safety record this Spring.

Arkansas’ hospital safety record underperformed the national average as just 18% of the state’s hospitals scored an “A” compared with 31% of the 2,639 U.S. hospitals reviewed. Just two Arkansas institutions, or 7%, scored a “B” compared with 35% nationally. The majority of hospitals in the state scored a “C” for their safety record, but five others were below the average pulling a “D” safety rating.

The hospitals were scored on 30 measures of publicly available hospital safety data, including infections, problems with surgery, practices to prevent errors, safety problems, doctors, nurses and staff data.

“When we launched the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade in 2012, our goal was to alert consumers to the hazards involved in a hospital stay and help them choose the safest option. We also hoped to galvanize hospitals to make safety the first priority day in and day out,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog. ”So far, we’ve been pleased with the increase in public awareness and hospitals’ commitment to solving this terrible problem. But we need to accelerate the pace of change, because too many people are still getting harmed or killed.”

Leapfrog reports 1,000 people die each day from medical errors happening in hospitals. Talk Business & Politics reviewed the report from the state’s hospitals and found there were as many hospitals scoring a poor grade of “D” as there were scoring “A.” With that 18% of the hospitals in the state are in serious need of safety improvements, according to the report, compared with just 6% of the hospitals throughout the country. Sparks Regional in Fort Smith, Johnson Regional Medical in Clarksville, CHI St. Vincent in Hot Springs, CHI St. Vincent’s in Little Rock, and National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs each received a grade of “D” in the recent report.

Sparks Regional in Fort Smith has maintained a “D” safety record over the past two reporting periods – the Fall 2016 and in Spring 2016. Prior to that the hospital had a “B” rating in the Fall of 2015 and a “C” rating in the Spring 2015 report.

In the recent report Sparks had a higher than average rating for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections as well as infections in the blood during stays in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. Bed sores were also higher than average. Sparks also received low marks in specially trained doctors for its ICU patients.

Sparks ranked above average in the surgical categories such as preventing deaths from serious but treatable complications, as well as incidence of collapsed lungs during surgery.

Johnson Regional Medical Center, a smaller hospital based in Clarksville, slipped to a “D” rating this Spring, after scoring a “C” in the Fall of last year and a “B” one year ago. The hospital was likely downgraded because it received the lowest score in the survey for “dangerous object left in patient’s body.” The average hospital score was 0.025, but Johnson Regional had the worst score of 0.386 in the metric. The hospital also scores below average regarding surgical wounds slitting open. The hospital performed above average in the four other surgical metrics. The hospital also scored below average on patient falls which occurred at twice the rate of the average hospital score.

In Little Rock, CHI St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center also slipped to a “D” safety grade this Spring, compared with a “C” in the past three reporting cycles. The hospital performed at the low end of the spectrum in regard to MRSA infections as it has more incidents than average. Infections in the blood were also higher than average as well as infections following colon cancer.

The hospital had mixed results in the surgery category, underperforming when it came to serious deaths from treatable complications, accidental cuts and tears and serious breathing issues. The hospital outperformed when it came to incidents of collapsed lungs, surgical wounds splitting open and objects left inside a patient. The hospital also had low marks with regard to communication with patients and medicines and it also reported a higher risk of patient’s failing.

National Park Medical Center in Hot Springs has maintained a “D” safety record since last Fall. Prior to that the hospital had a “C” rating dating back to 2014. Infections were a problem at the hospital this last year with the facility ranking below average in all five of the infection metrics. When looking at surgical safety, the hospital was below average in four of the seven metrics, including deaths from serious, treatable complications, collapsed lung and serious problems breathing. The hospital ranked average on serious blood clots and above average on accidental cuts and tears.

On a positive note, the hospital ranked above average in general safety metrics from dangerous bed sores to patient falls and serious gas bubbles in the blood. There were below average ratings in communication metrics from hospital responsiveness, nurses communication, and having trained doctors for ICU patients.

Also in Hot Springs, CHI St. Vincent’s Hospital dipped to a “D” this Spring after maintaining an average “C” grade back to the Spring of 2015. Infections were one of the factors weighing down the rating. The hospital underperformed in three of the five metrics regarding infections, namely with MRSA and urinary tract infections following surgery. The hospital’s score was also dinged from dangerous bed sores and patient falls as well as communication issues regarding medicines and discharge. On a positive note CHI St. Vincent’s in Hot Springs ranked above average on all seven of the surgical metrics, being the only one of its “D” peers to do so.

Mercy Hospitals in Rogers and Fort Smith each garnered an “A” safety record. Mercy Rogers has maintained an “A”  over the past year. Prior to that a “B” was scored in the year before. Mercy performed above average in three of the five metrics for infection. In surgery the hospital was above average in six of the seven metrics excluding accidental tears and cuts where it underperformed. While scoring high in training, having enough qualified nurses and trained doctors for ICU patients the hospital can still improve on bedsore prevention and surgical site infection after colon surgery.

“Patient safety has always been a priority for Mercy, and this latest acknowledgement from The Leapfrog Group is confirmation that our team is meeting our mission of exceptional service and compassionate care,” said Eric Pianalto, president of Mercy Hospital Northwest Arkansas.

Mercy Fort Smith also maintained its “A” rating for the last year, improving from “B” earned the prior year. This hospital was only above average in two of the five metrics regarding infection. MRSA infections and Clostridium difficile bacteria kept the hospital in the underperforming status. The hospital also was underperforming regarding leaving an object in a body during surgery, but it performed well above other six surgical metics. This hospital has safety record above average for dangerous bed sore and below average for patient fall. Mercy Fort Smith also got high marks on having enough qualified nurses and specialty doctors in the ICU.

In southern Arkansas, Magnolia Regional Medical Center has held it’s “A” safety record since last Fall, coming from a “B” scored in a year ago. In 2015 the hospital had “D” and “C” ratings in the Fall and Spring reports, respectively. The hospital got high safety marks in five of the seven surgical metrics, but needs improvement in dangerous blood clots. There were several metrics where data was not available in the areas of infection and other metrics the facility declined to report. The hospital did receive higher than average results three general safety metrics such as preventing dangerous bed sores, patient falls and gas bubbles in the blood.

Ouachita County Medical Center in Camden has held it’s “A” safety record through last Fall. A year ago the hospital had a “C” rating. As in Magnolia much of the data missing is in the infection metric, but the one area where the data was available the hospital ranked above average regarding Clostridium difficile bacteria. The hospital also outperformed the average in six of the seven surgical metrics, with data not available regarding death from serious treatable complications. Ouachita County Medical also scored above average on preventatives for patient falls, bed sores and gas bubbles in the blood.

Unity Health White County Medical Center in Searcy has kept its “A” safety score throughout the past two and half years. The last time the hospital scored lower was a “B” earned in the Fall of 2014. The hospital was an average performer regarding MRSA infections, but above average in three other infection metics. In surgery the hospital scored above average in five of the seven metrics, needing improvement in two: accidental cuts and tears and death from serious treatable complications. In general safety the hospital needs work in preventing patient falls, but excelled in preventing dangerous bed sores. This hospital got high marks in communication between doctors, nurses and the responsiveness of staff.

Arkansas hospitals scoring a respectable “B” safety ratings include:
• Jefferson Regional Medical Center – Pine Bluff
• Baptist Health Medical Center – Little Rock

The majority of hospitals (15) in the state scoring a “C” average rating on safety include:
• Arkansas Methodist Medical – Paragould
• St. Bernards Medical Center – Jonesboro
• White River Medical Center – Batesville
• CHI St. Vincent Medical Center-North – Sherwood
• UAMS Medical Center – Little Rock
• Baxter Regional Medical Center – Mountain Home
• Baptist Health Medical Center – Little Rock
• Conway Regional Medical Center – Conway
• Saline Memorial Hospital – Benton
• Medical Center of South Arkansas – El Dorado
• North Arkansas Regional Medical Center – Harrison
• St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center – Russellville
• Northwest Medical Center – Springdale
• Washington Regional Medical Center – Fayetteville
• Northwest Medical Center – Bentonville