Safety Scores Drop For Both Hub City Hospitals

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) and Saint Peter’s University Hospital (SPUH) both declined in ratings on their hospital safety report cards issued this fall.

The Hospital Safety Score, provided as a public service by a national no-nprofit organization, is becoming an important measure of patient safety according to recent articles in The New York Times, and AARP Magazine.

The organization, The Leapfrog Group, is committed to driving safety, quality and transparency in the U.S. health system, and issues its hospital safety report card twice a year.

“You have a 1 in 25 chance of leaving the hospital with a new infection,” warns the Leapfrog Group on the landing page of its website.

“Some hospitals have hidden dangers. From medication mix-ups to preventable infections, these hospital errors can result in serious harm to patients,” says a video on the site.

"Over 400,000 people die every year because of hospital safety problems, making preventable errors and infections the third leading cause of death in the U.S., right behind heart disease and cancer."

"Sometimes even the so-called 'best' hospitals with the latest equipment and the highest rated doctors aren’t the safest,” says the video emphasizing patient safety.

In the Hub City, Saint Peter’s University Hospital received a “C” on its latest report card, slipping from the “A” it received in April.

A spokesman, Phil Hartman said the hospital expects to return to an “A” ranking next spring.

“Saint Peter’s has addressed those areas detailed as shortcomings in 2013 and we have made significant gains in those areas for 2014,” spokesman Phil Hartman told NJBiz, adding that he expects Saint Peter’s to get an “A” again next spring.

Several “measures” were graded for each of New Jersey’s 67 hospitals.

These measures are categorized under five areas and include: Safety Problems with Surgery; Staff Follows Steps to Make Surgery Safer; Infections and Safety Problems; Right Staffing to Prevent Safety Problems; and Hospital Uses Standard Safety Procedures.

For example, under "Safety Problems with Surgery," three measures display below average results for SPUH: Collapsed lung, Serious B Problem, and Dangerous blood clot.

On the left there is a description of the general measure. On the right there is a description of “what safer hospitals do.”

SPUH scored above average on three other measures within the "Collapsed lung" category.  These are: Surgical wound splits open, Accidental cuts and tears, and Death from treatable serious complications.

A click on the broader “Hospital Uses Standard Safety Procedures” reveals another five measures.  Again for SPUH, three were below average: Correct medication information is communicated, Doctors order medications through a computer, and Take steps to prevent ventilator problems.

But, under “Hospital Uses Standard Safety Procedures” SPUH was in the green, or above average for: Handwashing, and Track and reduce risks to patients.

Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital scores dropped from “A” to “B” at their New Brunswick, Somerville, and Hamilton hospitals. Their Rahway hospital maintained its “B” score.

RWJUH told NJBIZ that it "continues to support efforts, like the Leapfrog Group’s Hospital Safety Score, to encourage transparency and give individuals access to information that can help them better evaluate the quality of care provided by our state’s hospitals.”

Citing recent improvements, RWJUH told the publication, "As this year’s report indicates, RWJUH continued to improve on some of the measures evaluated by the report… We will use the data in this report to benchmark our performance and develop quality improvement initiatives to address any areas of need."

"For example, at RWJ New Brunswick we have been able to reduce the number of central line-associated blood stream infections by 41%from last year. We have also decreased falls by 36.5%over that same time period."

Overall, 35 hospitals in New Jersey received “A” grades.  Eighteen received “B” grades, 13 received “C” grades, and one hospital–Saint Michael’s Medical Center of Newark–received a “D”.

Dave is an award-winning business reporter who has authored over 200 articles for New Brunswick Today.