Local hospitals’ safety assessed in nonprofit’s report

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Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Twin Cities Hospital in Niceville each received “A” rankings from The Leapfrog Group.

By Jim Thompson | 315-4445 | @Jimtnwfdn | jthompson@nwfdailynews.com

FORT WALTON BEACH — Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Twin Cities Hospital in Niceville each received “A” rankings in the latest Hospital Safety Grade report from The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit organization that works to drive safety and transparency in the U.S. health care system.

The two hospitals were the only facilities among eight area hospitals to earn the top ranking from The Leapfrog Group, which surveys hospitals twice each year. 

Announcing their top Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades in a news release, the CEOs of Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Twin Cities Hospital praised the work of their respective staffs.

“We’ve gone to great lengths to ensure safety is ingrained in our culture and I’m proud of all we’ve accomplished. I … am thankful to all of our employees and physicians who play a key role in helping us achieve this rating,” said Mitch Mongell, CEO of Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. 

David Whalen, CEO of Twin Cities, said, “These accomplishments are not possible without the hard work and dedication of our employees, physicians and volunteers each and every day.” 

The Hospital Safety Grade is based on hospitals’ performance in five areas: infections, problems with surgery, hospital practices aimed at preventing errors, safety problems and hospital staffing. In all, The Leapfrog Group gathers data on 27 survey measures, with data coming from the hospitals participating in the survey, an annual American Hospital Association survey and Medicare’s Hospital Compare program. Some of the data collected are from two years before the ranking date.

Fort Walton Beach Medical Center

Fort Walton Beach Medical Center’s “A” grade included top marks in controlling MRSA bacterium, which can be found on hospital beds and equipment, and Clostridium difficile bacterium, which can cause significant intestinal problems.

With regard to surgery problems, the hospital ranked well, but problems were noted in connection with lung issues and rates of death from serious treatable complications in surgery.

The hospital’s error prevention efforts, including communication about medicine and discharge procedures, were top-ranked, as were its safety protocols, with the exception of patient falls. With regard to hospital staffing, Fort Walton Beach Medical Center was ranked high in terms of its number of nurses, its responsiveness to patients and in the number of specially trained doctors caring for ICU patients. 

The broader Leapfrog Group data did note some issues with central line infections — central lines are intravenous lines inserted into patients to deliver medicines — which were somewhat higher than Leapfrog indicated should be expected. Infection ratios with regard to urinary catheter infections and surgical site infection following major colon surgery were also somewhat higher than The Leapfrog Group indicated should be expected.

Responding to those concerns, a Fort Walton Beach Medical Center spokesperson pointed out that the hospital recently became a Level II trauma center, which increases the number of “high acuity” patients, or people with serious medical problems or in danger of developing serious medical problems.

“We are always working to provide safe, quality care for our patients with the best clinical outcomes,” said Denise Kendust, director of marketing at the hospital. “We continuously look at new research and evidence-based practices for all patient care, including infection control and prevention, which is why we continue to earn a score of “A” for patient safety and infection prevention. In order to provide additional services to our community, we recently became a Level II trauma center. Becoming a Level II trauma center increases the number of high-acuity patients admitted at Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. Even while caring for these high-acuity patients, we still are able to maintain lower infection rates.”

Twin Cities Hospital

Twin Cities Hospital also received top marks in inpatient care management, with the exception of the number of specially trained doctors caring for ICU patients and the number of qualified nurses on staff.

Twin Cities Hospital ranked well in the other four areas included in the safety grade calculation, with the exception of urinary tract infections occurring during ICU stays.

In the broader Leapfrog data, Twin Cities’ medication safety protocols were top-ranked, and its maternity care was ranked near the top. The hospital got top rankings in connection with controlling Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that can cause significant intestinal problems, and the MRSA bacterium that can be found in bed linens or medical equipment. 

Leapfrog noted it was unable to calculate a safety grade for the hospital’s handling of central-line infections, surgical site infection following major colon surgery and MRSA infections. 

Calls to Twin Cities Hospital seeking comment on the Leapfrog report were not returned.

B grade designations

Three other area hospitals — Gulf Breeze Hospital, North Okaloosa Medical Center in Crestview and Sacred Heart on the Emerald Coast in Miramar Beach — earned “B” ratings in the report. However, neither North Okaloosa nor Sacred Heart participated directly in the Leapfrog Hospital Survey. 

According to a spokeswoman for North Okaloosa Medical Center, the hospital normally participates in The Leapfrog Group rating, but for the latest survey, “simply missed the reporting deadline due to staff transition.”

Data collected by Leapfrog indicated some problems with patient falls and communications with patients about medicines at North Okaloosa.

Leapfrog data also indicated some issues with patient falls, bed sores and patient falls at Sacred Heart.

The Sacred Heart Hospital System provided a detailed explanation of its reasons for not participating in the latest Leapfrog survey. 

In an email, hospital officials said, “We chose not to participate in the Leapfrog survey this year, in part because it requires considerable time and staff resources to complete, and we are already providing health performance data to the government.” 

Sacred Heart system officials also noted that their hospitals “track a multitude of quality and safety ratings including mortality and complication rates for different surgeries and conditions, infections, a dozen or more patient satisfaction ratings, and other events such as patient falls and preventable injuries.” 

The Sacred Heart email also states that the system hospitals “have been recognized in many forums for Excellence in Care, including Truven Analytics Top 100 Hospital five times, Top 50 for Cardiovascular Care, and various others.” 

C grade designation

Sacred Heart Pensacola was assigned a “C” in the latest Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report, with Leapfrog’s own data noting issues with the responsiveness of the hospital staff and surgical site infection after colon surgery.

One other area hospital, Baptist Hospital in Pensacola, was assigned a “C” in the analysis. Leapfrog noted concerns about MRSA infections and infections in ICU patients.

An eighth area hospital, Healthmark Regional Medical Center in DeFuniak Springs, was not listed among the hospitals included in The Leapfrog Group assessment. A call to the hospital was not returned.

Grade overviews

According to Leapfrog records, Twin Cities Hospital has scored “A” in all Leapfrog surveys since 2014. Fort Walton Beach Medical Center scored “B” grades in the 2014 surveys, and has been rated “A” since that year. 

The remaining local hospitals have compiled “B” and “C” grades during the last four years, with the lone exception being a “D” grade in the spring of 2015 at Sacred Heart Pensacola. 

Gulf Breeze Hospital earned “A” grades in 2014 and Sacred Heart on the Emerald Coast earned “A” grades in both 2016 surveys. 

Overall in the Leapfrog ratings, Florida ranked 24th among the 50 states. Of the 174 Florida hospitals included in the ratings, 53 were graded “A.”

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