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Kenmore Mercy Hospital earns top grade for patient safety

Kenmore Mercy Hospital earned a grade of A – the region’s highest – in a national patient safety organization’s scoring for how well hospitals avoid errors and accidents.

Two hospitals – the Eastern Niagara Health System facilities in Lockport and Newfane – received a D.

The grades, however, should come with an asterisk in the spring 2015 update of the Leapfrog Group survey.

Eastern Niagara chose not to participate in the voluntary grading program.

Eastern Niagara and the Kaleida Health hospital system also consist of multiple facilities. They are organized and rated as one institution, however, and their grades don’t reflect the results from the individual sites.

Leapfrog, an employer coalition that promotes hospital quality and patient safety, grades hospitals in the United States on how they protect patients from accidents, errors, injuries and infections.

The group’s measures include how well a hospital avoids preventable errors or accidents, such as deaths from serious treatable complications after surgery. Other measures look at how well hospitals follow procedures to prevent problems, such as using computerized systems to order medications.

Leapfrog based its grades on a voluntary survey it conducts, as well as quality-related hospital statistics already publicly available from the federal government’s Hospital Compare website.

A grade of B went to Mercy Hospital in South Buffalo, Sisters Hospital in Buffalo and its St. Joseph Campus in Cheektowaga. All of them, like Kenmore Mercy, are part of the Catholic Health System. Also receiving a B were Erie County Medical Center and Olean General Hospital.

Five facilities received a grade of C: United Memorial in Batavia, Mount St. Mary’s in Lewiston and three Kaleida Health facilities – Buffalo General Medical Center, Millard Fillmore Suburban in Amherst and DeGraff Memorial in North Tonawanda. All Kaleida hospitals received the same organizational grade.

Of the 2,523 hospitals issued a Hospital Safety Score by Leapfrog, 782 earned an A, 719 a B, 859 a C, 143 a D and 20 an F.

Of 139 hospitals graded in New York State, 18 percent received an A.

The overall findings show that hospitals made statistically significant improvements since 2014 on several pre- and post-surgery safety processes, as well as the use of computerized medication prescribing systems, according to Leapfrog. But their performance on safety issues such as preventing errors and infections has not significantly improved.

“Now that we’ve been collecting national hospital data over several years, we can examine not only how safe a hospital is now, but how consistently it maintains that patient safety focus over time,” Leah F. Binder, Leapfrog president and CEO, said in a statement. “With 40 percent of hospitals receiving a C, D or F grade, there is absolutely room for improvement.”

Hospitals appear to be making progress against infections and errors, but studies indicate that problems still exist.

A 2013 analysis in the Journal of Patient Safety found that preventable errors each year lead to the deaths of 210,000 to 400,000 patients who seek hospital care. If accurate, this would make medical errors the third-leading cause of death in the United States behind heart disease and cancer, according to data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Hospitals are making important strides in patient safety. But they are doing it because measurement, like the work of Leapfrog and others, puts the focus on the problem,” said Bruce A. Boissonnault, CEO of the Niagara Health Quality Coalition, which produces a hospital report card.

What does it take to get an A?

“You have to have a plan, make it a priority, devote resources to it and have it time-limited,” said John Kane, Catholic Health vice president of quality and patient safety. “The entire organization has to be focused on it.”

Kane said it’s meaningful that his report comes first at Catholic Health board meetings. He said that regulatory changes linking reimbursement to quality, as well as consumer demand for more transparency, have made a significant impact.

“You used to have poor quality in the industry and still get paid,” Kane said. “Now, increasingly, you need to do it right. It is safe to say that without scrutiny and the alignment of providers with regulatory bodies, you might take your foot off the pedal on this issue.”

Eastern Niagara chose not to participate or submit data, a decision that influenced its score, according to spokeswoman Carolyn A. Moore.

She cited concerns expressed by the Hospital Association of New York State and the American Hospital Association about the methods Leapfrog uses to determine grades. The state hospital advocacy organization in 2013 criticized Leapfrog for relying heavily on what it considered unvalidated survey data.

“Eastern Niagara is striving to focus its quality improvement efforts on those measures that have been endorsed by the government and formal accrediting organizations,” Moore said in an email.

To view all Leapfrog safety scores, go to