According to a new report, New Mexico has some of the most unsafe hospitals in the nation, including UNMH.
The “Hospital Safety Score,” a report released by The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit based in Washington D.C., assessed the safeness of hospitals in the U.S. by using hospitals’ existing public records. The report assigned letter grades to hospitals ranging from A to D. New Mexico has the lowest percent of A-grade hospitals in the nation.
Of the 14 evaluated hospitals in New Mexico, seven got a C. UNMH, the state’s biggest hospital, was one of them. Roswell Regional Hospital was the only hospital in the state to receive a D. Five hospitals, including Albuquerque’s Presbyterian Hospital got a B, and only Espanola Hospital got an A.
The group’s communications manager Erica Mobley said a panel of medical experts from institutions such as Harvard and Stanford conducted the report. She said the group started working on the report last June, and the results are based on public hospital reports they gathered from Medicare and from the American Hospital Association.
Mobley said the panel used 26 measures to evaluate hospitals’ scores. This included 11 criteria that counted the number of problem cases, such as bedsores. The other 15 measures scored hospitals on a scale of 1 to 100, 100 being the best possible score, based on the panel’s evaluations for categories such as ICU death rates. Mobley said UNM scored average in the report, because 44 percent of all hospitals got a C or lower, 30 percent received an A, and 26 percent received a B.
But Mobley said UNMH scored below average in certain areas, such as the number of patients who develop bedsores. On average, 25 percent of patients develop bedsores at UNMH, compared to the national average of 12 percent, according to the report. The panel also scored UNMH five out of 100 on Intensive Care Unit physician staffing; the national average is 23.08 out of 100. The panel used this to calculate the death rate in UNMH’s ICU, which is more than 20 percent.
“Anybody who’s going to a hospital is already sick in the first place,” Mobley said. “But these things are something that happened accidentally that shouldn’t be happening to anybody.”
Mobley said results were based on data obtained in 2011 and 2012.
She said that because the report used public records that are “hardly biased” and because professional medical experts determined the results, the report is very accurate.
But medical practitioners at UNMH are questioning the legitimacy of the report.
UNMH Executive Director for Quality Marc David Munk said the results are flawed. Munk said that although the report is based mainly on public data, 11 of the 26 measures required hospitals to fill out a survey. He said that because UNMH decided not to submit documents for the remaining 11 measures, it obtained a low score.
“We had concerns about the time it would take for us to participate … and about the accuracy of the project,” he said. “We were graded on a test we didn’t take.”
Munk said UNMH decided not to participate because 65 percent of other academic hospitals in the country did not either. He said the report lacked enough hospital participation and the results are questionable.
Munk said UNMH operates more efficiently than what the report depicted. He said the hospital is regularly ranked as one of the best in the country.
“There’s ample evidence that UNMH is one of the leading academic hospitals in the country,” he said. “We are in the top third in the country. That’s a more accurate measure.”
Mobley said her organization’s intent for the report isn’t to scare people away from UNMH. The panel’s aim is to warn people of the potential hazards in hospitals, she said.
“This does not mean, ‘Don’t go to that hospital,’” she said. “Regardless of whether you’re going to an ‘A’ hospital or a ‘C’ hospital, it’s needless to say that you should be cautious.”
Mobley advised that patients should observe simple aspects of a hospital, such as how often its doctors wash their hands. These aspects will help patients be more aware of the safeness of a medical facility, she said.
“Hospitals are run by people, and people make mistakes,” she said.
Mobley said the “Hospital Safety Score” is updated twice a year. She said the next results will be published in April.