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Local hospitals skeptical of latest safety grades

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June story: Report: Some area hospitals could be safer

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A national group has issued its second set of hospital safety grades within the past five months and given one hospital in the region a D.

The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit program founded 12 years ago, gave St. Luke's Regional Medical Center in Sioux City, Iowa, the only D in either Iowa or Nebraska. Leapfrog gave out D's and F's for the first time after giving poor performers a “grade pending” status the last time it handed out grades, in June.

The June grades were generally based on 2010 data, and last week's grades used 2011 data.

St. Luke's spokeswoman Leslie Heying said many entities evaluate hospital patient safety, and they can come up with different results. Denver-based Healthgrades, for instance, gave St. Luke's a “patient safety excellence award” this year.

Heying said her hospital would review Leapfrog's methodology.

“Patient safety is vital to quality care at St. Luke's, and we fully support public transparency of quality and safety information,” she wrote in an email.

Methodist Hospital of Omaha's grade improved from a C in June to a B last week.

But the hospital's Dr. Anton Piskac was skeptical of the grades' value. Piskac, a Methodist vice president, called them an oversimplification. He also referred to a June letter to Leapfrog from the American Hospital Association, which called the June assessments “neither fair nor accurate.”

Among the association's criticisms were that Leapfrog uses some measures that the federal Hospital Compare program will stop utilizing because they are unreliable.

Piskac said Methodist has chosen not to fill out the Leapfrog survey, and many other hospitals have opted not to do so as well. “We're not particularly impressed or worried about” Leapfrog's grading, he said. He added that he didn't think the Leapfrog grades provided value for people considering where to obtain treatment.

“We're not knocking people who got good grades,” he said.

The Alegent Creighton system performed well in some instances. Bergan Mercy Medical Center received an A, as did Midlands Hospital in Papillion. But Immanuel Medical Center received a C, and Creighton University Medical Center's grade dropped from a B to a C.

Dr. Richard Miller, a senior vice president with Alegent Creighton, said in a written statement that his system was pleased to have “all the A's and half the B's” among the metropolitan area's hospitals.

“We've implemented a number of best practices in the past couple of years to improve our safety standards, but unfortunately Leapfrog is using data that is often more than two years old and doesn't reflect what we've put into practice since then,” he said.

The Nebraska Medical Center received a C last week and in June.

More than 2,600 general hospitals in the nation received grades, and 790, or about 30 percent, received A's. One-hundred-twenty-one received D's, and 25 received F's.

The Leapfrog Group provides its data to large purchasers of health insurance, mostly businesses.

The group uses 26 measures of publicly available safety data — things such as number of wounds that split open after surgery and number of patients who develop bedsores. Leapfrog said a nine-person panel of experts on hospital safety guides the methodology used.

Leapfrog Group's grades for area hospitals

Bergan MercyAA
Nebraska Medical CenterCC
Bryan HealthCC
Columbus CommunityCB
Faith Regional (Norfolk)BB
Good Samaritan (Kearney)CC
Great Plains (North Platte)AA
Mary Lanning (Hastings)CC
Regional West (Scottsbluff)CC
St. Elizabeth (Lincoln)CC
St. Francis (Grand Island)CC
Western IowaNovemberJune
Jennie Edmundson (Council Bluffs) C C CC
Mercy (Council Bluffs) C BCB
Lakes Regional (Spirit Lake) C pending Cpending
Mercy (Sioux City) B B BB
Spencer A AAA
St. Anthony (Carroll) C not scoredCnot scored
St. Luke's (Sioux City) D CDC

Contact the writer: 402-444-1123, rick.ruggles@owh.com; twitter.com/rickruggles

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