Wake Forest Baptist Health—Wilkes Medical Center in North Wilkesboro received a “D” in the Leapfrog Group’s spring 2019 assessment of hospital efforts to keep patients safe from preventable harm and medical errors.

The local hospital received a “C” in fall 2018, no grade in spring 2018, a “C” in fall 2017 and an “A” every fall and spring prior to that since it was first scored in fall 2013. An “A” is the highest grade and an “F” the lowest.

Dr. Hayes Calvert, chief medical officer of Wake Forest Baptist Health—Wilkes Medical Center, said Friday, “Surveys such as Leapfrog help show us areas where we can do better, but they use widely different criteria and time frames. This makes it very difficult for patients to use the information in a useful way.”

Representatives of other hospitals have said Leapfrog’s letter grades are too simplistic for a complex issue and so can mislead patients.

Calvert also said, “We want our community to know that our number one priority is always to keep our patients safe. Each day, our strong and talented team of providers and staff is committed to delivering safe, high quality and compassionate care to every one of our patients and their loved ones.”

Leapfrog grades for other area hospitals include Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, “C” in the latest report and last fall; Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem, “A,” up from “B” last fall;” Hugh Chatham Memorial Hospital in Elkin, “A,” up from “B;” Iredell Memorial Hospital in Statesville, “C,” same as last fall; Watauga Medical Center in Boone, “B,” up from “C;” Frye Regional Medical Center in Hickory, “B,” down from “A;” Northern Hospital of Surry County in Mount Airy, “B,” up from “C;” Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, “C,” down from “B;” Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte, “B,” same as last fall; and Duke University Hospital, “A,” up from “C.”

Of more than 2,600 hospitals graded nationwide this year, 32% earned an “A,” 26% a “B,” 36% a “C,” 6% a “D” and just under 1% an “F.”

Leapfrog’s grades are based on data for 28 safety topics. Hospitals must report some of this to the federal government, while other portions are from voluntary responses to hospital surveys conducted by Leapfrog. Some performance measures are risk-adjusted for patient severity and income so hospitals aren’t penalized for admitting sicker, poorer patients.

Among the 28, Leapfrog said handwashing, patient falls and blood infections were among key patient safety considerations.

The report said Wilkes Medical Center scored slightly below average for handwashing in 2018 and above average for patient falls and injuries in the period Oct. 2, 2015, to June 30, 2017.

Blood infection data wasn’t available for Wilkes Medical Center in the period considered for that topic, which was July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018. It also wasn’t available for MRSA, urinary tract, clostridium difficile infections, as well as for infections after colon surgery, for the same period.

Wilkes Medical Center was among the worst performing hospitals in the category, “specially trained doctors care for intensive care unit patients” in 2018.

It was among the best performing hospitals for having enough qualified nurses in 2018.

Wilkes Medical Center also scored above average for:

• collapsed lung, dangerous bed sores, accidental cuts and tears and dangerous blood clots and below average for surgical wounds splitting open. These are all for the period Oct. 1, 2015 to June 30, 2017;

• “doctors order medications through a computer” and “safe medication administration” in 2018;

• “communication with nurses,” “communication with doctors” and responsiveness of hospital staff” for the period April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.

It scored below average for:

• “staff work together to prevent errors” and “effective leadership to prevent errors” in 2018;

• “communication about discharge” in April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018.

According to Leapfrog, the 28 safety topics considered and scoring methodology were developed by a panel of 10 experts, all physicians and mostly on faculty of leading universities.

Some hospitals aren’t given a grade because they can’t report enough data to the federal government due to their small size or don’t provide it for some other reason.

Leapfrog is a national nonprofit established in 2000 by private and public health-care purchasers to help improve the quality and affordability of U.S. healthcare. It gets financial support from entities such as AARP, CBS, FedEx Corporation and Marriott International Inc.

Leapfrog has assigned hospitals letter grades of A, B, C, D or F grades twice per year since 2012.

The latest Leapfrog report is at www.hospitalsafetygrade.org.

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