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UMass Memorial Lags Behind Peer Worcester Hospitals in Nat’l Safety Scores

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


UMass Memorial Medical Center was the only hospital in Central Mass not to receive an "A" safety score in a recent report issued by the Leapfrog Group, but the hospital has taken issue with the group's methodology in arriving at those scores. 

UMass earned a "C" in the healthcare employer group's Hospital Safety Score report for Fall 2012. The scores were based on 26 measures of publicly available data and surveys submitted to Leapfrog by the hospitals themselves.

UMass: Methodology "Flawed"

"The Leapfrog grade given to UMass Memorial Medical Center represents our nonparticipation, not our quality of patient care," said Dr. Robert Klugman, Chief Quality Officer, Senior Vice President and Medical Director for Managed Care at UMass Memorial.

"Like other organizations, we find the Leapfrog methodology flawed and its report of no value. This has been highlighted by others and even the recent Consumer Reports results conflict with Leapfrog."

The Cleveland Clinic, Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia opted not to participate in the Leapfrog survey as well.

"Our commitment to quality and safe patient care speaks for itself," said Klugman. "We are acknowledged among the top in the U.S. for cardiac care, critical care and many other areas. The Joint Commission, which oversees quality and safety in almost all U.S. hospitals, and numerous other national accrediting organizations have given us top ratings. We do report to and get scored by a dozen or more rating agencies and share these reports."

However, David Schildmeier, director of communications for the Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA), said that recent staffing cuts at UMass Memorial are to blame for the hospital's lower grade.

"Staffing is directly related to how safe you are in the hospital, and these grades are a direct reflection of this hospital's failure to staff properly."

The MNA and UMass Memorial are currently at odds over pensions and staffing reductions at the medical center. The hospital has maintained that its staffing levels are appropriate.

"It's really incredible to assume that you can take away caregivers, lessen the time with patients by design, and not expect a degradation in care," Schildmeier said.

Massachusetts Home to Highest Rate of "A" Hospitals

St. Vincent Hospital, Wing Memorial Hospital in Palmer, Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer, Milford Regional Medical Center and HealthAlliance Hospital in Leominster all received "A" scores in the Leapfrog assessment.

Overall, Massachusetts was found to have the most safe hospitals with 83 percent received "A's." Maine was not far behind with 80 percent of the Pine Tree state's hospitals earning "A's" as well.

Of the 2,618 general hospitals issued a Hospital Safety Score nationwide, 790 earned an "A," 678 earned a "B," 1004 earned a "C," 121 earned a "D" and 25 earned an "F." According to Leapfrog, at least 180,000 people are killed every year from errors, accidents, injuries, and infections in American hospitals.

"Everybody has a role in improving this terrible problem with safety in American hospitals," said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group.

"Consumers, patients, families of patients, employers, unions, and hospitals themselves can all make a difference if we resolve here and now to make patient safety a national priority."

HealthAlliance Hospital, a member of the UMass Memorial Health Care system, has previously been recognized for its safety standards, and was ranked the safest hospital in the state and one of the safest in the nation by Consumer Reports.

"The Medical Staff at HealthAlliance is deeply involved in our quality and patient safety programs," said Mary Lourdes Burke, the hospital's chief communications officer. "They take an active role in leadership committees and projects which focus on the review and improvement of the care we provide to our patients and their families."

"We're very proud of our ability to achieve great scores here," said Octavio Diaz, chief medical officer at St. Vincent.

In order to improve safety, Diaz said St. Vincent has focused on improving transparency and communication between all members of its staff. In the event that anything does go wrong during a medical procedure, the hospital immediately informs the patient and his or her family.

"If there's any safety concerns or any issues or certainly any problems that arise, we bring them out to the forefront."

While St. Vincent has been ranked in both Thomson Reuters' top 100 hospitals and its top 50 cardiovascular hospitals for two years running, Diaz said there is still no room for error when it comes to hospital safety, even as medicine becomes more and more complicated each day.

"We really take this job very seriously and we put an awful lot of energy and effort into it," he said.

"We could be the safest hospital in the world, but if we harm a family member of yours it doesn't matter. We need to be safe 100 percent of the time." 


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