According to a recent study by the nonprofit Leapfrog Group, reported on November 18, 2018, in The New York Post, four New York City hospitals got failing grades for keeping patients safe, while only two facilities managed to score As.
Failing scores for such dangers as hospital-acquired infections, objects left in the body after surgery, wounds splitting open, bed sores and falls, went to Elmhurst Hospital and St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Queens, as well as Maimonides and Interfaith hospitals in Brooklyn. Altogether, “New York ranked 46th nationwide for the percentage of hospitals receiving the top grade.”
This study should be very concerning for any New Yorker faced with a hospital stay. The organization’s website states “The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses national performance measures from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the Leapfrog Hospital Survey, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Hospital Association’s Annual Survey and Health Information Technology Supplement.” Leapfrog claims its “Hospital Safety Grades” are recognized “the gold standard measure of patient safety, cited in MSNBC, The New York Times, and AARP The Magazine.”
But, spokespersons for NYC hospitals decried the study. Brian Conway, representing the Greater New York Hospital Association, told the Post, “We take all hospital report cards seriously, but Leapfrog’s flawed methodology doesn’t come close to capturing the breadth and scope of New York hospitals’ activities to deliver safe, high-quality patient care.” A spokeswoman for St. John’s said, “other surveys of the hospital showed ‘above average reporting’” and Interfaith maintained that Leapfrog “had used old data for some of its scoring.”
Do hospitals with low safety grades endanger patients? Leapfrog claims that “Many hospitals in this country have safety records that wouldn’t be tolerated in any other industry.” Among the “alarming” statistics the organization cites are these:
Statistics like these are the reason a 2016 Johns Hopkins study suggested that medical errors could be the third leading cause of death in the United States. That study called various incidents of patient injury “never events,” because they should never happen within the controlled environment of a hospital if the hospital staff is doing its job properly.
Never events include many of the threats Leapfrog found in awarding failing grades:
- Objects left in body
- Wrong side or wrong site surgery
- Wrong operation
- Post-operative infection
- Pressure ulcers (bed sores)
For example, Interfaith Medical Center had the worst hospital score in the state for bedsores and MRSA infections.
Oddly enough, the same organization —NYC Health + Hospitals — runs the failing Elmhurst and Metropolitan Hospital in Manhattan, one of the A-graded hospitals. Dr. Eric Wei, vice president and chief quality officer for that organization, told the Post, they are “looking for opportunities to replicate Metropolitan’s success throughout its system.” For their patients’ sake, we hope they succeed and quickly.