ALBANY — For several hospitals in southwest Georgia, the latest round of Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades showed improvements.

The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades are an independent, nonprofit grading system that assigns “A,” “B,” “C,” “D” and “F” letter grades to general, acute-care hospitals in the United States. It is administered on behalf of employers and other purchasers.

South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta earned a “C,” Tift Regional Medical Center in Tifton received an “A,” Colquitt Regional Medical Center in Moultrie got an “A,” Crisp Regional Hospital in Cordele got a “C,” Archbold Memorial Hospital in Thomasville got a “D,” Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany received a “B,” Phoebe Sumter Medical Center in Americus got an “A” and Memorial Hospital and Manor in Bainbridge got a “D.”

Phoebe Sumter officials said quality improvement teams at the hospital constantly gather and review data and have ongoing continuous improvement projects designed to build on the hospital’s safety success.

“At Phoebe Sumter, our top priority every day is keeping our patients safe,” hospital CEO Brandi Lunneborg said. “We are committed to a culture of patient safety and continuous improvement, and we are proud The Leapfrog Group has once again recognized that commitment. Earning another ‘A’ from Leapfrog was not our ultimate goal, but rather a welcome result of the hard work and dedication of our employees and providers.”

“We went almost two years without a single patient contracting a central line-associated bloodstream infection and a year without any surgical site infections. While our goal is always zero, those are two important metrics that show our quality improvement efforts are paying off.”

Remarking on the performance of Phoebe Putney Health System’s main campus, President and CEO Scott Steiner reiterated the hospital’s continued commitment to improvement.

“I am proud to be part of an organization as committed to patient safety as Phoebe,” he said. “These improving scores are a result of our partnerships with our outstanding medical staffs. We pledge to continue to build on the quality improvement efforts that have been underway throughout our system for several years.

“Patients want us to keep them safe, heal them and be nice to them. We want every member of the Phoebe Family to keep that mantra in the forefront of their minds every day.”

Jim Matney, president and CEO of Colquitt Regional, expressed pride in the hospital’s 10th consecutive top score.

“We are so excited to receive our 10th consecutive ‘A’ from The Leapfrog Group,” he said. “Having our hospital named to the list of safest hospitals in the nation is a huge accomplishment — one we wouldn’t have achieved without our incredible staff. Every day our staff members display their dedication to our organization and commitment to excellence. We are proud of our record on quality, which our exceptional employees have worked hard to attain.

“Quality, safety and service lie at the heart of our strategic vision. Patients and our community have come expect this from us and we owe it to them to exceed their expectations. Holding patient safety as a top priority is one way we deliver on our vision. Receiving our 10th ‘A’ not only sets us apart as a top health care provider but builds the foundation for the future. The dedication and diligence to provide quality patient care displayed by each staff member will ensure the long-term prosperity of Colquitt Regional.”

Archbold Chief Medical Office Dr. Coy Irvin said the score the Thomasville hospital receives from Leapfrog is not a full reflection of its performance, and that steps are being taken to correct this.

“Though Archbold has been assigned a score by Leapfrog for several years, we just recently completed Leapfrog’s voluntary survey for the first time,” Irvin said. “The survey, which determines part of the letter grade they assign hospitals, assesses whether a hospital has organized certain processes and initiatives in ways Leapfrog believes will help quality. Though Leapfrog’s processes aren’t quality outcomes themselves, we have decided that we must also reorganize some of our initiatives according to the Leapfrog template if we want our letter grade to be an accurate reflection of the quality care we provide.

“Because of this, we are making a collective team effort to ensure our letter grade is the highest it can be.”

Christopher K. Dorman, president and CEO of Tift Regional Health System, said his system’s main campus has many initiatives in place to keep quality care and safety at the forefront. This includes a council comprising clinical leaders, administrative staff and hospital board members who review outcomes and individual cases to identify opportunities for performance improvement.

He said the hospital conducts a daily patient safety check-in between a member of the executive team and managers from nursing units and support areas, adding that all staff members also participate in patient safety measures for their respective areas and attend periodic training.

“The Leapfrog Group awarded Tift Regional Medical Center an ‘A’ grade for its efforts to keep patients safe from infections, errors and accidents,” Dorman said. “This recognition reflects a true dedication to quality care and patient safety by our highly-trained physicians, nurses, therapists, technicians and support staff.

“We can’t take a break. Tift Regional must continue to adopt the latest techniques and best practices to ensure quality, harm-free care for our patients.”

Attempts to get comments from a representative of Crisp Regional were unsuccessful by Tuesday afternoon.

The Leapfrog Group, while compiling and releasing the latest Hospital Safety Grades, contracted with the Johns Hopkins Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality to update its estimate of deaths due to errors, accidents, injuries and infections at “A”, “B”, “C”, “D” and “F” hospitals.

Researchers assessed more than 2,600 hospitals receiving Hospital Safety Grades and found that when compared to “A” hospitals:

♦ Patients at “D” and “F” hospitals face a 92 percent greater risk of avoidable death;

♦ Patients at “C” hospitals on average face an 88 percent greater risk of avoidable death;

♦ Patients at “B” hospitals on average face a 35 percent greater risk of avoidable death.

Overall, an estimated 160,000 lives are lost annually from the avoidable medical errors accounted for in the Leapfrog grades, an improvement from 2016 when researchers estimated 205,000 avoidable deaths.

“The good news is that tens of thousands of lives have been saved because of progress on patient safety. The bad news is that there’s still a lot of needless death and harm in American hospitals,” Leah Binder, president and CEO of Leapfrog Group, said. “Hospitals don’t all have the same track record, so it really matters which hospital people choose, which is the purpose of our Hospital Safety Grade.”

The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grades are peer-reviewed and free to the public. Grades are assigned twice a year in the spring and fall.

Across all states, data from the latest scores included:

♦ Of more than 2,600 hospitals graded, 32 percent earned an “A,” 26 percent earned a “B,” 36 percent earned a “C,” 6 percent a “D” and just under 1 percent an “F;”

♦ The top five states with the highest percentages of “A” hospitals are Oregon, 58 percent; Virginia, 53 percent; Maine, 50 percent; Massachusetts, 48 percent, and Utah, 48 percent;

♦ There are no “A” hospitals in Wyoming, Alaska, Washington, D.C., Delaware or North Dakota. Forty-one hospitals nationwide have achieved an “A” in every grading update since the launch of the safety grade in spring 2012.

For more information about the grades, individual grades and state rankings, visit hospitalsafetygrade.org and follow The Leapfrog Group on Facebook and Twitter.

Staff Writer

I'm a 2007 graduate of Georgia Southern University, and I've been a reporter for The Albany Herald since 2008. I cover news related to health care, Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany, SOWEGA Council on Aging and other areas as assigned.

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