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Novant celebrates ‘A’ hospital ratings, NHRMC doesn’t quite make the grade


Novant Health announced that nine of its fifteen hospital systems have received the top rating from the Leapfrog Group, a national non-profit focused on hospital safety. NHRMC received a B, with high marks in many areas, but ‘below average' ratings for issues with infections, safety, and communication.

On Wednesday, Novant Health celebrated that the Leapfrog Group had awarded many of its hospitals an ‘A’ rating, including the Brunswick Medical Center.

Leapfrog releases biannual scores in the spring and fall. Since 2019, New Hanover Regional Medical Center has scored a B every time, except in the fall of 2021, when it scored an A. Brunswick Medical Center has received A ratings every time over the same time period.

Other A-rated Novant hospitals included Forsyth, Kernersville, and Huntersville medical centers.

According to Novant Health, “The Leapfrog Group assigns grades to hospitals throughout the United States, based on a hospital’s ability to prevent medical errors and harm to patients. Hospital Safety Grade results are based on more than 30 national performance measures and are updated each fall and spring. Letter grades ranging from A to F are assigned to U.S. hospitals based on their ability to prevent errors, injuries, accidents and infections, and improve patient satisfaction.”

Leapfrog generates its scores using data from surveys it conducts, and information from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — a low-profile agency in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services which put NHRMC on ‘immediate jeopardy’ notice for losing Medicare and Medicaid contracts this summer due to serious deficiencies.

In general, NHRMC scored well for fall 2022, and, according to Novant, just barely missed the ‘A’ grade. In particular, the hospital scored well on ‘practices to prevent errors,’ which include collaboration between staff, handwashing, and safe medication dispensing.

However, in several particular areas, NHRMC scored ‘below’ average.

For infections, Leapfrog gave NHRMC low marks for preventing MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria, and Clostridium difficile, as well as urinary tract and blood infections.

There were also 'below average' ratings for surgical wounds splitting open, accidental cuts and tears, and kidney injuries after surgery, as well as safety problems like falls causing broken hips and blot clots.

Lastly, Leapfrog rated NHRMC just slightly below average for nurse communication and staff responsiveness. You can find Leapfrog’s full analysis here.

In response to Leapfrog’s rating of NHRMC, Eric Eskioglu, M.D. executive vice president and chief medical and scientific officer for Novant Health, wrote, “[r]egardless of the grading organization and criteria, Novant Health’s unwavering commitment is to provide the safest care in the communities we serve, with a goal of zero hospital-acquired infections and serious safety events.”

Eskioglu’s statement also noted an overall decrease in the number of A-rated hospitals in Leapfrog’s fall 2022 report, although it’s not exactly clear how that’s relevant, since NHRMC has mostly scored Bs back through 2019.

“For the Fall 2022 scoring period, The Leapfrog Group reported a 4% decrease in the number of facilities receiving A’s, which shifted to the B grade category where there was a 4% increase. Patient safety remains our top priority and our teams work around the clock to evaluate and develop best, safe practices to serve our patients and our communities,” he wrote.

For several of the below-average scores, specifically those related to infections, Leapfrog recommends improved hand-washing and glove-wearing protocols.

Eskioglu also addressed that issue, writing, “[h]and hygiene is the number one method to prevent hospital-acquired infections, and we continue to monitor compliance across our footprint. This year, New Hanover Regional Medical Center adopted our hand hygiene observation program that places a greater emphasis on hand hygiene accountability for all team members who work in clinical settings.”

Disclosure notice: Novant Health finalized its purchase of NHRMC, formerly a county-owned hospital, in early 2021. Novant is an underwriter for WHQR programming.

Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature. He loves spending time with his wife and playing rock'n'roll very loudly. You can reach him at BSchachtman@whqr.org and find him on Twitter @Ben_Schachtman.