Southwest Florida hospitals have earned top marks for safety and were better prepared to address the pandemic with the some of the sickest and most infectious patients in decades, according to a hospital grading organization.
Lee Health’s four hospitals in Lee County all received “A” grades for patient safety for spring 2021, according to grades released Thursday by the Leapfrog Group, an independent watchdog group. Grades are issued twice a year.
Lee Health hospitals have consistently received “A” grades for nearly three years. Lee Heath is the dominant hospital provider in Lee County and is publicly operated with a combined 1,812 beds. Its hospitals are Lee Memorial, Gulf Coast Medical Center, HealthPark Medical Center and Cape Coral Hospital.
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At the NCH Healthcare System in Collier County, North Naples Hospital received an “A” and the Baker Hospital garnered a “B.” Both are the same grades given last December.
NCH is the dominant hospital provider in Collier and is a private, nonprofit system with a combined 713 beds at the two campuses.
The Leapfrog Group analyzes 2,700 general acute-care hospitals nationwide on 27 measures for preventing medical errors, injuries, accidents, infections and other events that can harm patients.
While several organizations analyze patient outcomes at hospitals using Medicare data, Leapfrog officials say they are the only one solely focused on hospitals’ ability to protect patients from preventable injuries and infections.
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Hospitals that earn “A” grades were better prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic because of continued focus on patient safety, according to Leapfrog. Hospital data from 2019 and 2020 was used for the latest analysis.
Out of 179 hospitals graded in Florida, 76 earned the top grade and 48 got “B’s” and 53 got “C’s,” according to Leapfrog. Two hospitals were given “D’s” and no hospitals flunked with “F’s.”
Physicians Regional Healthcare in Collier with two campuses were not graded, according to Leapfrog. Last December, both campuses at Pine Ridge and Collier Boulevard with a combined 209 bed received “B” grades.
Physicians Regional, owned by for-profit Community Health Systems based in Franklin, Tenn., acknowledged in a statement that it did not take part in the most recent survey for grading.
“We did not fully participate in the Spring 2021 survey, but plan to submit a complete set of data to Leapfrog for their next review cycle for Fall 2021,” Scott Lowe, the CEO, said in a statement. “Our hospitals are fully committed to providing safe, quality care to the patients who are counting on us.”
The 88-bed Lehigh Regional Medical Center in Lee earned a “B” grade, the same since spring 2019, data shows. The Lehigh hospital is owned by Prime Healthcare in Ontario.
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Dr. Larry Antonucci, president and CEO of Lee Health, said the “A” grades for all four of the system’s hospitals speak “to the kind of care patients can expect in our hospitals.”
At NCH, added safety measures put in place during the pandemic to contain the COVID-19 virus may have contributed to the overall scores of both hospitals improving even though the grade for the Baker hospital did not go up, according to a statement.
“Our goal is to strive for an exceptional patient experience each and every time,” said Paul Hiltz, president and CEO of NCH. “Improvements made at NCH Baker Hospital are working, and we fully anticipate that in the fall when Leapfrog releases their grades again, both NCH hospitals will be an ‘A.’”
Hospitals that earn the top grade have strong structures in place and were better prepared to deal with COVID-19 pandemic, Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog, said in a news release.
“For many, safety and quality are embedded in their daily work at all levels of the organization, which prepared them in turn to respond to the rapidly evolving pandemic,” she said.
Those hospitals with infection control procedures in place are better equipped to protect patients and health care workers, she said.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, hospitals need to double down on safety, so they save lives, strengthen their organizations, and position themselves to withstand the next crisis,” she said.