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Lowcountry hospital fails safety grade again

Published: Nov. 16, 2021 at 9:28 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 17, 2021 at 4:07 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The Regional Medical Center of Orangeburg and Calhoun Counties has once again dipped to an overall failing grade for safety. Across 32 metrics, the hospital was deemed to have acceptable statistics in just 12 categories.

The Leapfrog Group is a nation-wide not-for-profit organization that assigns a hospital safety grade to thousands of hospitals twice a year. Those involved provide documents and data to the Leapfrog Group for scoring. The scores in each category are calculated and then converted into a letter grade.

Hospitals can receive either an “A, B, C, D or F.”

Since 2018, RMC Orangeburg has routinely received either a ‘D’ or ‘F’. They are one of two hospitals in the state to receive a grade lower than a ‘C.’

Live 5 reached out to the healthcare provider for comment but has not heard back.

Hospitals in Charleston County fared better. All of Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s hospitals received either an ‘A’ or ‘B’.

“Two of our four hospitals got A’s, one was one hundredth of a point away from an ‘A’ and our fourth hospital – Berkeley Hospital – was not eligible,” said Carin Hosler, director of quality at Roper. “So, yeah, we really crushed it.”

Meanwhile, the Medical University of South Carolina Medical Center in downtown received a ‘C’. The institution has dropped from A’s and B’s in 2018 to B’s and C’s in 2020.

Despite a below average grade in categories such “dangerous object left in patient’s body,” Bundy says the hospital is generally safe, arguing those errors are rare.

“Things like leaving an object behind after surgery we call ‘never events’. . . that means our expectation is that those things never happen,” Bundy said. “The reality is that those things do happen at a low frequency. Trying to measure the safety of a health system by looking at these very rare events is probably not the best way to tell what the likelihood of me having a safe experience is.”

The data shows for every 1,000 people discharged from surgery at MUSC, 0.202 will be sent home with a dangerous object left inside them. Leapfrog says, most of the time that object is a surgical sponge that can create infection.

“I get my own health care here, my entire family does. I and two of my three kids have had surgery at MUSC. It didn’t occur to me to do it anywhere else,” Bundy said. “Whether it’s an ‘A’ grade or a ‘C’ grade, sure, I aspire to be an ‘A’ grade no doubt about it, but that doesn’t change my sense that this is a place that is focused every day on safety.”

Bundy says survey results should always be taken with a grain of salt.

“There are innumerable ranking systems out there and across the board you get varying results,” Bundy said. “There has been research to demonstrate that hospitals that score high in certain ranking systems very often don’t score high or even appear in different ranking systems and that makes sense in a way because each ranking system is designed differently and measuring different things. . . of course we strive to do better in the ones where we are scoring lower on. So the ‘C’ from Leapfrog is a grade we want to improve.”

Indeed, MUSC was ranked the number one hospital by U.S. News and World Report in Charleston for 2021.

Hosler says Roper’s grades have been getting better and better since the received the first set of marks in 2018. She also says they highly value the Leapfrog report for its transparency.

“Leapfrog is super important basically because the public knows about it and will look for that score and will evaluate us or come to our facility based on that score,” Hosler said. “They’re also a very valid tool, in that you know you can compare one hospital to another. It’s yes or no questions. You either make it or you don’t. It’s not subjective at all. It’s very objective. We are very proud to have those scores.”

Hosler attributes some of the growth over the last few years to the struggle with COVID.

“COVID taught us a ton,” Hosler said. “Just of teamwork and commitment and it really showed why we are here. . . last year we had less healthcare associated infection than we had in 2019 which is really extraordinary during the COVID census.”

Other institutions receiving an ‘A’ for Fall 2021 in the Lowcountry are Colleton Medical Center and Hilton Head Hospital. See the full report here.

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