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Local Hospital Receives a "D" Rating in Safety Study

While the practice was once reserved for schoolchildren, it seems like everything and anything is graded these days. The trend can sometimes feel a bit much, but it can also provide helpful insight into institutions that are otherwise tough for the general public to evaluate. Healthcare is one such field, and our Panama City medical malpractice attorney was saddened to read that one of our region's medical centers failed to receive a passing grade in a recent study. It is crucial that the public is aware of failing hospitals, but it is an upsetting and even frightening problem.

Panama City's News Herald recently reported on a study by the Leapfrog Group, an organization that studies and compares hospitals, rating them on performance, adherence to national safety standards, efficiency, patient satisfaction, and overall quality of care. The group's 9-member Blue Ribbon Expert Panel calculated the Hospital Safety Scores using 26 publicly-available pieces of safety data to build a single score. Leapfrog's analysis included the hospital's ability to keep patients free of infections and injuries, as well as the ability to prevent medical and medication errors. Study panelists included doctors from Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and the University of Michigan. Consumer Reports also worked on the study.

Alarmingly, Bay Medical Center Sacred Heart Health System received a "below average" score, making it one of eight hospitals in Florida to receive a "D" grade. While Bay Medical declined to comment directly on the study, Pam Spires, the chief quality officer, did release a more general statement asserting that the hospital has high ratings on quality and safety measures from other groups, including the federal government's Hospital Compare database, Florida's own Health Finder database, and HealthGrades, a nationally recognized study. Spires also criticized the Leapfrog study's methodology, citing other nationally-recognized medical centers that received "D" and "F" ratings. She also noted that the study did not consider certain safety measures such as the computerized order and medication system, a safety project that involved an investment in the millions of dollars.

On a better note, Leapfrog gave Gulf Coast Medical Center an "A", noting it met all criteria in order to achieve an "excellent" rating. Carlton Ulmer, the center's CEO, said this ranking is due to a commitment to treat both patients and employees as family. He noted the hospital strives to do what is best for everyone who comes through their doors, but also what is best for the community as a whole. Grades for other Panhandle region hospitals include: an "A" for Fort Walton Beach Medical Center and Gulf Breeze Hospital, a "B" for Niceville's Twin Cities Hospital, and a "C" for Marianna's Jackson Hospital. Overall, the state of Florida ranked 10th in the nation with 39% of the 61 hospitals studied in the state (not all hospitals were included) achieving "A" ratings. Massachusetts landed the top spot in the Leapfrog study.

We should be able to trust that our hospitals are providing quality care with an emphasis on safety. Although we understand the need to publicly defend their institution's quality, we hope that Bay Medical and other hospitals that received low scores will take a hard look at the study and learn lessons from its rankings. Our Panama City malpractice law firm is dedicated to advocating on behalf of those injured by medical errors, negligent care, or other safety failures. We hope one day this service is no longer needed, but until that happens, we will be here to help the victims.


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