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Further coverage from Colorado Public News. CPN focuses on uncovering significant information not being reported by anyone else in Colorado.

Many Colorado Hospitals Miss Top Grade For Patient Safety [Updated]

Donna Marshall
Colorado Business Group on Health

Prompted by 180,000 unnecessary deaths per year in U.S. hospitals, a new listing of hospital safety scores finds most of the 33 rated in Colorado don’t make the top grade.

The Washington-based Leapfrog Group is dedicated to reducing deaths, infections and injuries in hospitals that should not have occurred. To put pressure on hospitals to reduce such incidents, a group of medical academics pored over data reported to Medicare by the 2,600 U.S. hospitals, and then graded them.

Leapfrog director Leah Binder says about 400 people a day die from hospital infections, errors and accidents. In addition, about 1 million people are injured every year in hospitals.

The grades track such basics as whether hospitals failed to deliver proper medication in time – or at all, said Donna Marshall of the Colorado Business Group on Health. Other problems monitored include the level of nursing staff, giving the wrong blood, deaths from treatable complications, and post-surgery infections and breathing failure.

In Colorado, just 7 hospitals received A’s, 12 received B’s and 14 were given C’s. Details for each hospital can be found at www.hospitalsafetyscore.org. The site was heavily used on Wednesday, its first day open to the public.

Failing grades of D or F were withheld. One hospital in Colorado – Exempla Lutheran in Wheat Ridge – fell in this category. The hospital received a “pending” grade. Marshall said reviewers are giving such hospitals time to improve before being labeled with a failing D or F grade. Calls to Exempla and several other Colorado hospitals were not immediately returned.

“I would have hoped we would have done better” in Colorado, said Marshall, whose group works with a number of hospitals to encourage them to improve, as part of the Leapfrog effort. But with this information now readily available, “we hope consumers will start to shop for care much more carefully.”

Several of the “A” grade hospitals are not in the heavily populated metro Denver region. They include the 49-bed Delta County Memorial Hospital on the Western Slope; St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction; and Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo.

Marshall said it was “outstanding” that the rural hospital in Delta “has such a dedication to excellence.”  She also cited University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, noting that it receives “the sickest of the sick” in the state and yet maintained high marks, when academic medical centers elsewhere in the United States did not.

The study did not grade children’s and other specialty and small hospitals, because their work did not match that of the larger, general facilities.

Update 6:10pm - Centura, which operates eight of the hospitals in the report, with varying grades, praised the attention to quality, and noted that certain quality indicators are reported on Centura’s own website.

However, Centura vice president Wendi Dammann advised that consumers “don’t choose solely on one report.” Patients also can find recommendations and data on hospital performance even on specific procedures and illnesses, she said.

The Colorado Hospital Association applauded the look at quality but objected to the method of determining the grades, saying another recognized entity should have vetted them. Marshall said the grades were determined by leading academics, using publicly available data.

CHA also referred patients to other websites with quality data, including Medicare’s Hospital Compare, the state’s data on infections, and CHA’s own Colorado Hospital Report Card.

Update 6/7/2012 6:42am - Reaction from Exempla: SCL Health System, Lutheran’s parent company, said in a statement that its other three hospitals scored higher, demonstrating SCL’s commitment to quality. The company said Lutheran also is dedicated to quality and that recent and ongoing improvements should result in a good score in the next report.

Colorado A-grade hospitals

  • Centura Health-Porter Adventist Hospital
  • Delta County Memorial Hospital
  • Parkview Medical Center in Pueblo
  • HCA - Rose Medical Center in Denver
  • HCA - Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lonetree
  • St. Mary's Hospital and Medical Center in Grand Junction
  • University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora

Colorado B-grade hospitals

  • Centura Health-St. Anthony Central Hospital in Lakewood
  • Denver Health Medical Center in Denver
  • Exempla Good Samaritan Medical Center in Lafayette
  • Exempla St. Joseph Hospital in Denver
  • McKee Medical Center in Loveland
  • HCA - Medical Center of Aurora
  • Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland
  • North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley
  • Platte Valley Medical Center in Brighton
  • Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins
  • HCA - Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Denver
  • Sterling Regional MedCenter

Colorado C-grade hospitals

  • Boulder Community Hospital
  • Centura Health-Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville
  • Centura Health-Littleton Adventist Hospital
  • Centura Health-St. Anthony North in Westminster
  • Centura Health-Penrose St. Francis Health Services in Colorado Springs
  • Centura St. Mary Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo
  • Centura Parker Adventist Hospital
  • Community Hospital in Grand Junction
  • Longmont United Hospital
  • Memorial Health System in Colorado Springs
  • HCA - North Suburban Medical Center in Thornton
  • St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco
  • HCA - Swedish Medical Center in Englewood
  • Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs

Grade “Pending”

  • Exempla Lutheran in Wheat Ridge 
Colorado Public News is created in partnership with Colorado Public Television 12, Denver’s independent PBS station. It is led by editor Ann Imse. Others on the Colorado Public News team include:Cara DeGette, managing editorNoelle Leavitt, recruiting and social media directorSonya Doctorian, video journalistDrew Jaynes, webmaster and photographerJournalists Bill Scanlon, Dennis Huspeni, Jody Berger, Sara Burnett, Jerd Smith, Michele Conklin, Andy Piper, Lauren Rickel, Raj Sharan, Amanda TurnerRobert D. Tonsing, publication designer and entrepreneur
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