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Only a few St. Louis hospitals receive top safety rating in new report

Mercy Hospital St. Louis
File photo | Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio
Mercy Hospital St. Louis is one of the five St. Louis hospitals that received an "A" safety rating in a report from the Leapfrog Group.

A handful of St. Louis area hospitals received a high rating for patient safety in areport from the medical watchdog nonprofit, the Leapfrog Group.

Most of the 27 acute-care hospitals in the  region had documented problems with hospital-acquired infections, physician and nurse training and surgical complications, according to the group, which ranks 2,600 U.S. hospitals twice a year.

The St. Louis-area hospitals that received “A” ratings include Mercy hospitals in Festus and St. Louis, St. Anthony’s in Alton, St. Joseph’s in Breese and St. Elizabeth’s in O’Fallon, Illinois.

The group rates hospitals on metrics ranging from relatively benign skills such as hand-washing practices and nurse and doctor communication, to more serious, life-threatening issues such as patient falls and objects left in a body after surgery.

“Health care’s expensive, and no one wants to enter in the health care system for something and come out not getting the best quality of care they deserve,” said Debbie Nihill, quality management director for Mercy Hospital St. Louis, which has received “A” grades for the past five years.

The ratings are calculated using a combination of publicly available performance and quality data from the federal government and Leapfrog’s own safety survey sent to hospitals.

Mercy takes the Leapfrog ratings seriously, and has a team of people fill the survey out, Nihill said.

“Doing well with Leapfrog’s a sign of good faith we as a health care organizations are serious about providing high quality care,” she said.

No hospitals in St. Louis received an “F,” but two hospitals, St. Alexius and Christian Hospital Northeast, received “D” grades.

Although the two hospitals are in lower-income areas, patient population should not make a difference in ranking, said Missy Danforth, the Leapfrog Group's vice president of hospital ratings.

Other hospital ranking systems are based partially on patient outcomes such as readmittance rates. Critics say hospitals that treat sicker patients in poorer neighborhoods are unfairly penalized for their patient mix.

But the Leapfrog rankings focus only on a hospital’s practices, Danforth said.


“Some of the more egregious things should never happen, like objects retained after surgery. These are ‘never’ events, they should never happen to any patient,” she said. “There’s nothing about a patient or a hospital’s social risk factor that would make these specific safety things more prevalent.”

Christian Hospital Northeast had the lowest score for collapsed lungs, and St. Alexius had the lowest score for patient falls.

Representatives from both hospitals did not respond to requests for comment.

However, some area hospitals declined to fill out the Leapfrog survey, which could have potentially left out information that would affect their score, Danforth said.

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @Petit_Smudge

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.