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Hospital improves grade on safety evaluation / November 15, 2017
VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital scored a “B” grade on the latest national evaluation of hospital safety released by The Leapfrog Group, which twice a year surveys 2,632 hospitals in the U.S. on a wide range of patient safety measures. The mark is an improvement from six months before, when the hospital earned a score of “C.”

The “B” rating places the South Hill hospital ahead of Sentara Halifax Regional in South Boston and Maria Parham Medical Center in Henderson, N.C., both which earned a grade of “C” on the Leapfrog report. The highest-rated area hospital is Granville Medical Center in Oxford, N.C., which again scored the highest grade of “A.”

VCU-CMH earned top scores for practices that prevent erroneous communications about medicines, as well as discharge communications between patients and doctors. The hospital also recorded a perfect score for preventing certain infections, such as urinary tract infections, for not leaving dangerous objects inside patients during surgery and for preventing post-operative blood clots.

Its scores were average, when compared to other hospitals, for communications between nurses and patients and responsiveness of hospital staff.

VCU-CMH was given a below-average score for not having an ICU unit staffed with physicians who have training in critical care medicine: 5 out of a possible score of 100. However, the data Leapfrog relied on for this rating comes from 2015. Since then VCU-CMH has hired over 20 new physicians and other staff which could impact this rating in a positive way.

The hospital also received above average scores for preventing problems with surgery, including not leaving dangerous objects inside patients, preventing accidental tears, cuts and post-operative blood clots and opening of surgical wounds.

Their score was slightly below average for handling post-operative breathing problems among patients, 15.2 compared to an average score of 13.92. This data, like the data for ICU staff, was collected between 2013 and 2015.

VCU-CMH’s affiliate, VCU Health System, in Richmond also received a grade of “B,” as did Centra Lynchburg General Hospital, and Centra Virginia Baptist Hospital.

The chain of Sentara Health hospitals generally scored well for patient safety, according to Leapfrog. Of 12 Sentara hospitals in Virginia and North Carolina, nine received an “A” grade and two got “C”s, including Sentara Halifax Regional and Sentara Norfolk. One Sentara hospital facility, Sentara Albemarle, received a “D.”

Sentara Halifax performed best in comparison to other hospitals in communications between doctors and nurses and patients, and in hospital staff responsiveness. It also received a score of 100 out of 100 for having a sufficient number of qualified nursing staff, matching the best performance of hospitals nationwide.

The Leapfrog Group says that errors are much more common if hospital leaders don’t make patient safety a priority. In this area of the evaluation, once again Sentara Halifax received a below average score: 101.54 out of a possible 120, with the average score being 116.34.

The hospital posted four above-average scores and three below-average scores on seven common problems occurring with surgery. Sentara Halifax rated highly in terms of not leaving dangerous objects inside a patient’s body after surgery; treating collapsed lungs; preventing surgical wounds from splitting; and responding to serious breathing problems. It fell short on three other measures: deaths from serious treatable complications, dealing with dangerous blood clots; and preventing accidental post-surgical cuts and tears.

The Leapfrog Group, one of several organizations that rank hospital safety, calls its evaluation of 2,632 hospitals “the gold standard measure of patient safety in the United States.” Of the 2,632 hospitals graded in the most recent assessment, 832 earned an “A,” 662 a “B,” 964 a “C,” 159 a “D” and 15 an “F.”

In Virginia, 41 of the 68 hospitals graded earned an “A,” 15 got a “B,” 12 received a “C” and none rated a “D” or an “F.”

According to the Leapfrog Group, lapses in hospital safety — including patient injuries, accidents and infections — account for over 200,000 deaths among Americans each year. Medical errors are the third leading cause of death in the U.S.

Virginia ranked 5th overall among states in terms of hospital safety, with 60 percent of the state’s rated hospitals receiving a grade of “A.” Nearby North Carolina came in 12th nationally with 44 percent of hospitals receiving a grade of A. Hospitals in Maryland and Washington, D.C. were at the bottom of the rankings, 48th and 49th, respectively

Not all hospitals are evaluated by Leapfrog, including Veterans Administration hospitals and some facilities — such as Person Memorial Hospital in Roxboro, N.C. — that are deemed too small.

Elsewhere in the region and in Virginia, Duke Regional, Duke University and Duke Raleigh Hospitals in Durham and Raleigh, N.C. all earned an overall score of “A.” VCU Health Systems in Richmond received a “B.” Southside Community Hospital in Farmville earned an “A.”

Grades for all the hospitals reviewed by Leapfrog are available online at The website also offers a description of the data and methodology used in determining the scores.

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