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Site: Sentara Albemarle rates 'A' on patient safety

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By Jon Hawley
Staff Writer

Monday, November 19, 2018

A national nonprofit group has given Sentara Albemarle Medical Center an “A” for patient safety.

The Leapfrog Group found the Elizabeth City-based hospital was above average on 18 of 28 different measures, basing its review on Sentara Albemarle’s publicly available performance data.

Leapfrog’s assessment, which is available at www.hospitalsafetygrade.org, indicates Sentara Albemarle is the only hospital within 40 miles of Elizabeth City to get an “A” on patient safety, although the website shows no grades for Vidant Chowan Hospital. Leapfrog's website notes participation in its grading system is voluntary.

Leapfrog’s website shows Sentara Albemarle also received and “A” for patient safety in spring 2015. The hospital received a “D” in fall 2017, but raised the grade to a “B” this spring.

In a press release last week, Sentara Albemarle President Coleen Santa Ana hailed the “A” grade from Leapfrog, which she said was a result of the hospital’s commitment to offering the best possible care.

“We are proud of being recognized as one of America’s safest hospitals, but our patients are the real winners,” Santa Ana said. “Our patients benefit most from our rigid processes to keep them safe and positive health outcomes without unnecessary harm or medical errors.”

In assessing hospitals for patient safety, Leapfrog considers data in five broad measures: treatment-related infections; problems with surgery; practices to prevent errors; safety problems; and the qualifications of doctors, nurses and hospital staff and how they communicate. 

When it came to treatment-related infections, Sentara Albemarle scored above average on preventing infections in the blood, urinary tract, and those resulting from the bacterium Clostridium difficile, which Leapfrog said can be spread when providers don't properly wash their hands or equipment. Sentara Albemarle didn't provide data on two measures: preventing a kind of staph infection, and preventing surgical site infections following colon surgery.

Regarding problems with surgery, Sentara Albemarle scored above average on five measures: preventing dangerous objects from being left in patients' bodies; preventing surgical wounds from splitting open; preventing collapsed lungs; preventing patients from developing serious breathing problems; and preventing accidental cuts and tears. It scored below average on preventing dangerous blood clots, and didn't provide data on patient deaths from treatable complications.

On its practices to prevent errors, Sentara Albemarle scored above average on using electronically submitted prescriptions, which reduces errors; on safely administering medicines; on staff handwashing; on communicating to patients about medicines and their side effects; and on communicating to patients about proper steps after discharge from the hospital. It scored below average on “staff work together to prevent errors.”

When it came to addressing safety problems, Sentara Albemarle scored above average on preventing patient falls; preventing air or other gas bubbles in patients’ blood; and on tracking and reducing patient risks. It scored below average on preventing dangerous bed sores.

Regarding its doctors, staff and nurses, Sentara Albemarle scored above average on both having enough qualified nurses and communication between patients and doctors. It scored average on having enough specialists for intensive care patients and on communication between patients and nurses. It scored below average on “effective leadership to prevent errors” and “responsiveness of hospital staff.”

In an email Friday, Sentara Albemarle spokeswoman Annya Soucy responded to the hospital's missing or weaker grades in the Leapfrog assessment. First, she said the hospital sometimes has too few cases of certain infections to report.

She also said the hospital is constantly working to improve all safety measures, including those designed to reduce patient blood clots and bedsores.

Regarding the staffing issues, Soucy said Sentara Albemarle expects to have a higher score next year on “staff work together to prevent errors,” and is forming a committee that includes patients to provide better feedback to doctors, nurses and staff.

A review of other hospitals near Elizabeth City shows that most that are Sentara-affiliated received either As or Bs for patient safety in the Leapfrog report. Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, a separate system, got a “C.” In North Carolina, the only nearby hospital to show a score is Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie, which also got a “C.”

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